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Shortly after the Senate narrowly advanced a contentious Temp Worker bill back to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk this week, the lone Republican senator who voted for it announced legislation to fix the potential damage to the temp worker industry and the businesses that use them. 

But will the costs and other burdens actually be addressed in proposals announced by Sen. Vince Polistina (R-2)? 

“That remains to be seen,” said NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Alexis Bailey. “We made loud and clear the potential impacts this bill will have on the industry and businesses who use temp workers. So it’s disappointing that those concerns were not addressed before the bill was returned to the governor’s desk. 

“However, we appreciate that the conversations will continue, and we look forward to working with legislators to see if we can lessen the blows to the temp industry and third-party businesses, which will likely be significant.” 

Unworkable Mandate 

In an op-ed in NJ Spotlight this week, Bailey and New Jersey Staffing Alliance Executive Director Denise Downing said they did not oppose bill A-1474’s premise to improve the rights of temporary workers. 

But the biggest issue with the legislation is it mandates that temporary employees receive the same average wages and benefits, or the cash equivalent of the benefits, received by client employees performing similar work. 

Bailey and Downing wrote that there were multiple problems with that approach:   

“First, temporary agencies contract with multiple businesses that offer different benefits packages, which can encompass everything from 401K matches and health insurance to vacation days and life insurance policies. Calculating and providing payment for the average cost of these benefits packages would be logistically unworkable,” they said.   

“Second, and more impactfully, this pay provision could easily result in a temporary worker making more than a permanent employee, creating unfairness by usurping pay scales for staff that are based on seniority and experience.    

“Finally, this provision would be impossible to implement. The state would have to make a myriad of arbitrary judgments as to which jobs or occupations in society are of comparable economic value, and then mandate that those jobs be compensated at the same rate regardless of marketplace value.  

Business Concerns 

After the 21-15 Senate decision – which included non-votes from Sens. James Beach (D-6), Fred Madden (D-4) and Shirley Turner (D-15) – Polistina released a statement that said “although, on balance, everyone agreed that the main provisions of the legislation warranted support, I understand the concerns of the business community and those who didn’t support the vote.” 

He announced two bills co-sponsored by him and Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11). The first one would require the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to furnish a study examining the effects of temporary employment on the workforce. 

“Ensuring these hardworking men and women are provided fair benefits, as well as equal pay for equal work was the right thing to do, but it was just the first step towards fixing a complex problem,” Polistina said. 

Bailey said that the stated intent of the bill, on its surface, likely would not address the fact that a temporary employee could make more than a permanent employee under the language of the bill which does not mention seniority levels or equivalent experience while mandating that temp workers receive the average rate of pay as their employee counterparts doing substantially similar work.  

“That is something that really should be addressed, as it’s unfair to staff who earn those salaries based on seniority and experience and to the companies who are utilizing temp workers,” she said. “It could also be a disincentive for a business to contract with temp agencies and jeopardize job opportunities for temporary workers.” 

Bailey said that the stated intent of the bill, on its surface, likely would not address the fact that a temporary employee could make more than a permanent employee under the language of the bill – which does not mention seniority levels or equivalent experience while mandating that temp workers receive the average rate of pay as their employee counterparts doing substantially similar work.  

“That is something that really should be addressed, as it’s unfair to staff who earn those salaries based on seniority and experience and to the companies who are utilizing temp workers,” she said. “It could also be a disincentive for a business to contract with temp agencies and jeopardize job opportunities for temporary workers. 

Free Ride? 

A second Polistina-Gopal bill would require the New Jersey Department of Transportation to establish and administer a transportation grant program to provide grant funding to offset workforce transportation costs. 

Bailey said this bill could be helpful. Throughout the emp worker bill’s long road through the legislative process, NJBIA supported “reasonable limits” on transportation deductions to ensure no temporary worker is charged beyond reasonable costs for transport. 

“The problem is the bill calls for a total ban of transportation fees,” Bailey said. “And that’s not really realistic. Commuting costs are an expense for most workers, whether they’re staff, permanent or temporary. 

“This provision, if left alone, could have the unintended consequences of eliminating the availability of employer-sponsored transportation for those who may need it to get to a job site.” 

Whether any other bills addressing the concerns resulting from A-1474 remains to be seen. 

“Vince and I both recognize that the business community has legitimate concerns here,” Gopal said. “So, we are going to work together to improve upon what passed here, while ensuring protections for these workers are put in place immediately.”