Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 1, 2013

Negotiator: Ill. union deal means back pay, raises

(Continued)

But the AFSCME member said that in the provisional contract, Quinn agrees to pay a 5.25 percent raise due workers in early 2012. The union agreed to forgo the raises to help the state in a budget crisis, but when they came due last summer, Quinn argued the Legislature had not appropriated the $75 million necessary to pay them.

A judge ruled in the union's favor in December and Quinn appealed. According to the AFSCME member, Quinn has agreed to drop his appeal and approach lawmakers with AFSCME support in seeking authority to spend money the Cook County judge ordered Quinn to put aside last summer.

There hasn't been a state worker strike since unionization began in 1973. State law prohibits security workers — in AFSCME's case, prison guards — from walking out, but a strike could have hobbled critical functions such as child-abuse investigations and caring for elderly residents of military veterans' homes.

AFSCME issued a memo in February to members telling them how to prepare in case of a possible strike, and worker protests in recent months had called on Quinn for fair employment and collective bargaining practices.

Quinn had wanted workers to accept a multiyear wage freeze along with changes in health care coverage. Bayer said those changes would cost each employee an additional $10,000 over the length of the contract.

The union and Quinn's office had been negotiating for more than a year at a time when the relationship was already strained over issues such as money-saving facility closures.

Illinois has the worst-in-the-nation pension problem with $96 billion in unfunded liability. The union opposes reductions to their retirement benefits, which have been central themes on pension overhaul talks. The state can't keep up with bills, either, carrying a backlog of roughly $9 billion.

 

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