AFSCME To Accept Wage-Freeze, Higher Health Costs
Portside Date:
Author: Doug Finke
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Gatehouse Media Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - The largest state employee union said it will accept a four-year wage freeze and higher health insurance costs in an attempt to get the Rauner administration back to the bargaining table.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sent a letter to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday outlining what it called a "framework" to resume contract talks that broke off a year ago.


"Our union remains ready to return to bargaining," said AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch. "We know that Illinois residents rely on public service workers in state government to protect children from abuse, aid our veterans, respond to emergencies, keep our air and water clean and much more. We want to keep Illinois working without the potential disruption of a statewide strike."

Under the framework, AFSCME's 38,000 members "would forgo any increases in base wages in all four years of the contract," according to information from the union. The Rauner administration has insisted on a wage freeze for the four-year life of the contract. Several smaller union locals who settled contracts with the administration agreed to a freeze.

AFSCME said employees would agree to pay more for health insurance in the next three years, with the amount of the increase determined by an arbitrator. AFSCME said this is a process the state agreed to for state police officers.





AFSCME said it wants its members to get the same bonuses that are being extended to other workers. That means $1,000 the first year and other payments from a bonus pool of 2 percent of payroll. The union also said it wants workers eligible for "step" increases to continue to receive them in fiscal years 2018 and 2019."Our framework recognizes the state's fiscal probleman shows that state employees will do their part to help address them," Lynch said. "Employees would pay more for health insurance in three of the four years while receiving no increase in their base salary for four years, so the costs to the state are extremely modest. We think compromise, not conflict, is the way to move Illinois forward."

Catherine Kelly, Rauner's spokeswoman, issued the following statement: "The bi-partisan Labor Relations Board ruled unanimously that AFSCME and the state are at impasse. AFSCME's latest proposal does not bridge the more than $3 billion gap between the parties. Instead of this superficial letter, we invite AFSCME to drop its litigation blocking the administration's last, best, and final offer and work with us on implementing common sense proposals like earning overtime for working over 40 hours in a week, using volunteers, and creating workplace safety programs."

The administration ended negotiations with AFSCME on a new contract a year ago, contending the two sides had reached an impasse. The Illinois Labor Relations Board subsequently ruled that the two sides were at impasse, which allowed the administration to impose its last, best and final officer.

AFSCME has since gone to court to block the administration from imposing those terms.

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