EDISON – Six Edison firefighters remain out of work following a Superior Court judge’s decision to delay ruling on a request for an injunction to prevent their layoff. Mayor Jun Choi cut six positions from the township fire department to help close an $8.4 million gap in the municipal budget.
The Edison firefighters’ union is seeking an injunction from Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn J. Bermann, alleging that Edison acted in “bad faith” by imposing the layoffs. The union has also filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Committee.
Berman will give both sides another chance to present evidence on Friday, July 24.
The mayor informed Edison workers that up to 75 township employees could be laid off if the 11 unions representing municipal workers didn’t agree to wage freezes or offer other ways to save money. Choi said that the firefighters were the only employees laid off, and blamed their union for refusing to negotiate.
Firefighters’ union president Robert Yackel claimed that the layoffs were political retribution because the union had been critical of the mayor and endorsed his opponent in last month’s primary election.
Yackel refused to meet with the mayor until the union’s accountant was able to conduct a full audit of township finances and the union’s attorney said that the town never turned over important documents.
The union contends that the layoffs violate a state law which prevents a township from terminating tenured firefighters unless the layoffs are in proportion to other township departments. The township’s attorney argued that the statute only applied to volunteer firefighters.
The union contends that the layoffs could affect public safety, because the department is already understaffed. Berman asked for written evidence before he would rule.
“It sounds like a modest reduction, unless you are one of the six,” Berman said.
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