A New Jersey toll collector has committed suicide and the union representing his fellow workers says pay cuts were the trigger. According to NJ.com, Patrick Kelly, 58, On July 16, Kelly, 58, shot himself on July 16. Kelly had been working two jobs since the first of two $8,000 pay cuts took effect and was growing increasingly worried with a second pay cut pending, the union said.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” Franceline Ehret, president of the collectors union, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local No. 194, said Tuesday during the Turnpike Authority’s monthly meeting. “You didn’t need to make such a high demand of our toll collectors.”
After the authority threatened to privatize toll collection last year, toll collectors agreed to a two-year contract that cut their pay nearly 25 percent by the end of the contract, from about $65,000 to $49,500.
“I hope what Pat Kelly did, God forbid, doesn’t become a trend,” Ehret said. “We know that our toll collectors are facing extreme hardships thanks to these pay cuts. Your loyal employees deserve better. … You can do the right thing now. You can give our toll collectors back this last $8,000 pay cut.”
The state’s transportation commissioner, Jim Simpson, responded by calling the union’s accusations “tasteless.”
“First of all, condolences to the Kelly family,” said Simpson, who chairs the Turnpike Authority. “I just felt that (Ehret’s) timing was really off. Here we had this really tragic employee suicide, and to throw it on the backs of the Turnpike Authority is not appropriate.”