* The Tribune editorial board has some details on the tentative contract agreement between AFSCME and Gov. Pat Quinn…
State retirees would no longer get free health care coverage. About 90 percent of retired state employees, university workers, judges and lawmakers now pay nothing toward their insurance premiums. Instead, the state pays nearly $800 million a year for retiree coverage.
Lawmakers passed a bill last year ending the freebie, but Quinn’s lawyers insisted the issue of how much retirees would pay had to be bargained with AFSCME. Depending on how much retirees end up paying — if, for example, their contributions keep pace with the rising costs of health care — the state could see significant savings going forward. That would be good news.
Also good news: State workers who are not yet retired would pay more toward their current health care costs. Those workers pay roughly $300 a month in premiums for top-notch family coverage, a better deal than what most private-sector workers get.
So what did AFSCME get at the bargaining table? We’re told its members would receive no wage increase the first year. In 2014 and 2015, they would receive 2 percent each year for an average of 1.3 percent each year of the three-year contract.
Sounds like an austerity plan. But there’s a potentially costly catch. Unionized employees work under a “step” system that rewards them with automatic promotions based on years on the job. Not all state workers will be eligible for step increases during the life of the contract. The roughly 40 percent who are eligible would receive step increases, in addition to their wage hikes.
It’s unclear how the Gordon Maag lawsuit over a state law eliminating the 100 percent subsidy for insurance premiums will play into this, but I’ve contact Maag’s attorney and I’ll let you know.