* The Tribune editorial page talked to AFSCME Council 31 President Henry Bayer after Gov. Pat Quinn terminated the union’s state contract last week…
Bayer disputes that he has stonewalled during negotiations. He says he has proposed a first-year pay freeze and modest increases after that. He says every contract for nearly the last two decades has included greater employee contributions toward health care. He implies this one probably will, too.
“We don’t have an agreement on the contract yet,” he says. “But to ask employees to go four years without a pay increase and then at the same time pay more for insurance, that’s a lot to ask of people.”
Quinn’s team initially proposed pay cuts but is now seeking a freeze for the life of the contract.
AFSCME members lost promised pay increases last summer because the state didn’t have money to pay them.
Last week, Quinn tried to hike the pressure by refusing to sign an extension of AFSCME’s expired contract. So AFSCME members now are working without a contract. That doesn’t fundamentally change the terms of their wages or work rules, but it infuriated Bayer, who called it “disrespectful to the process.”
This is likely to grow even more intense. And if Quinn ultimately gives away the store, the Legislature could step in. House Speaker Michael Madigan has sponsored a resolution that would cap wage increases for collectively bargained contracts. The Madigan resolution points out that state workers received raises averaging 4.25 percent for each of the last five years, while the consumer price index averaged about 2 percent in that time.
* The Tribune wants Quinn and the legislative leaders to fix the pension mess so AFSCME can see more of the big picture. But Quinn is getting some strong support from an unexpected new ally…
Former Herscher resident and one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski applauded Quinn. He is the founder of For the Good of Illinois Foundation, a government spending watchdog group.
“Taxpayers, families and seniors are tired of the waste, fraud, abuse and bloated pensions that politicians have been feeding on,” he said. “Maybe, this is the first step in protecting the taxpayers of Illinois.
“Only time will tell if the governor is truly serious,” he added, noting another good step for righting the state’s fiscal ship would be “to freeze property taxes for three years, forcing out the waste at the local levels of government.”
* Strike chatter is increasing…
[Local AFSCME Council 31 Representative Dino Leone] feels Governor Quinn’s actions are leaving union members with little choice, but to take more action.
“We don’t want to have a strike. In the 40 years we’ve done collective bargaining in the state of Illinois we’ve never had a strike before,” he said.
Leone said Governor Quinn is only creating more uncertainty for public employees who are working in offices that are already short staffed.
“When you have instability in the work place and you have stressed workers because they’re over worked, working many hours with no sleep he’s definitely added a whole new stress level,” Leone said.
* What the contract termination means…
Quinn’s move is not expected to immediately affect state services, and union officials are advising workers is to go about their jobs and stay professional.
A memo sent to department heads from the governor’s office outlined that the move means none of the raises that were included in the old contract will be paid. And any workplace grievances that arise will not be acted upon.
* Governor Quinn terminates AFSCME contract: “During 11 months of bargaining, the state has extended the contract three times and made significant efforts to compromise,” Quinn budget spokesman Abdon Pallasch said in a statement. “But the government employees union, which has not offered a single proposal to deal with retirement health care, continues to seek millions of dollars in pay hikes the taxpayers can’t afford to give them. It has refused to recognize the extraordinary financial crisis squeezing the state.”