LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP - Public employees filled a 700-person auditorium here to complain about a proposal for monthly furloughs, saying they could compromise safety and lead to service delays.
Unions are fighting Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposal to furlough state workers one day per month in May and June as well as next fiscal year. The administration has claimed the "imminent peril" of the down economy to defend their actions.
An appellate court gave the administration a split decision last week, ruling it could furlough workers, but questioning the right to stagger them.
Thursday, a hearing was on the proposal to make the emergency rule, which expires at the in late May, permanent. If made permanent, it would expire June 30, 2010. No decision is expected until May.
A previous hearing included protests and arrests, but Thursday's event, while sometimes noisy, was peaceful.
Workers said the proposed rule was an attack on the Civil Service system, designed to minimize the role of political connection in public employment. They were also upset that it came after years of underfunding pensions and outsourcing workers with 9,000 to 13,000 temporary staff and said it would essentially undercut public services by
Inside the armory at the National Guard complex here, most were part of the more than 80,000-member Communication Workers of America, the state's largest public workers union. A number of workers rode the more than two dozen charter buses outside the building. Those who could not get into the building rallied at a local park across the street.
Speakers inside addressed Henry Maurer, director of Merit System Practices and Labor Relations with the state Civil Service Commission, criticizing the other members of the paid board for not attending.
Maurer sat alone at a folding table on a slight riser, which was bare except for some papers and a water bottle.
Bill Lavin, president of the state Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, suggested the government could freeze hiring, lay off workers and freeze salaries.
Hetty Rosenstein, director of CWA Local 1037, turned the microphone around and addressed the roomful of workers in a rally.
She suggested, to cheers, eliminating all "project specialists," "confidential aides" and other patronage positions, stopping worker outsourcing and firing the external investors who manage the state pensions.
Furloughs are a cut in services, Rosenstein said, that would lead to longer lines at the Motor Vehicle Commission, longer waits for unemployment and delays for development, as workers applauded.
State workers, she said, are dedicated, working with the public. "We give back all the time!"
"Yes!" shouted Jaee Alexander, one of the dozens who gave Rosenstein a standing ovation.
Alexander, a caseworker with the Division of Youth and Family Services, traveled from Orange, Essex County. Like many other workers, she said the layoffs treated its employees badly. "I don't think it's fair. I don't think that we should be balancing the budget on us."
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