Newark Police Avoid Layoffs — For Now

City, union reach agreement to stall layoffs until union members vote on 11th-hour proposal

Kat and husband
Kat Sotnik

Newark police may get a reprieve from impending layoffs if the union agrees to an 11-hour proposal put forth by Mayor Cory Booker at a news conference today.

In what at first appeared to be a contrived moment, given the apparent inevitability of the layoffs, Booker and members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12, the only union in the city Booker says refuses to make concessions during these tough economic times, went behind closed doors and reached an agreement of sorts.

The unexpected deal on the table includes five furlough days, converting overtime to time off and deferring pay on 20 works days. Further details on the proposal were expected to be released later Saturday.

If members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 approve the newly brokered plan by a week from Monday, 167 city police officers will keep their jobs. If the union doesn't approve the deal, those nearly 13 dozen officers -- 10 percent of the entire force -- will be out of a job come Tuesday.

Call it a heartfelt plea or call it a strong arm tactic. Call it what you will but Mayor Cory Booker publicly called for the union to step up and take a hit for the city in these difficult times.

"This is the way of heroes," Booker said, stressing the layoffs weren't about politics but about slashing $9.5 million from the police budget. "This is the way of sacrifice for God, country, city. And that is what we are asking at this time."

Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Booker called on the Fraternal Order of Police's leadership to send the proposal directly to members for a vote. He said the city would delay any layoffs until Nov. 29, so union members could review the offer.

"Let them vote, let them vote," the mayor urged. "We'll hold back on layoffs; we can do it for a couple of days while they take it to a vote for their membership."

But NBCNewYork learned general membership hasn't been allowed to vote. And Detective Walter Melvin, a member of Fraternal Police Lodge 12, said there wouldn't be much point in throwing a deal on the table that no one would accept.

"They actually want us to reopen our contract and give back everything we've already negotiated for," Melvin said. "Why would we offer something for a vote that we know is going to get passed down?"

The union will present the city's plan to its members on the Monday after Thanksgiving and in turn, the city will delay a final decision on the layoffs until after that vote.

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