State government, largest union settle on contract
The state and the union that represents about 35,000 of its employees have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.
Neither the Blagojevich administration nor the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees would discuss details of the proposed settlement that was reached after a marathon bargaining session that began Thursday morning and ended Friday morning.
AFSCME deputy director Roberta Lynch said the union, which represents more state employees than any other, never discusses contract details until they’re ratified by members.
“We feel it is a fair settlement,” Lynch said. “We feel it is fair to our members and the taxpayers of Illinois.”
Brian Williamsen, spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, issued a written statement saying, “In fairness to the employees, we are not discussing the agreement until they have been provided an opportunity to review it.”
That hopefully will begin next week, Lynch said. AFSCME will prepare written materials summarizing the contract that will be given to rank-and-file union members at meetings across the state. After going over the details, members will vote on the proposed pact, which will be approved if a majority accepts it. Lynch said the process could take a week once it has begun.
AFSCME and the state had been deadlocked for months on a new labor agreement to replace the contract that was supposed to expire June 30. The union agreed to keep the old contract in effect as long as negotiations continued.
AFSCME complained that the state was demanding huge increases in state employee health insurance premiums and co-payments that would not be offset by wage increases. After six months of talks with no real progress on the health-care issue, both sides agreed to bring in a mediator.
“I think it was a big help to have his involvement,” Lynch said.
The latest round of talks started Wednesday afternoon and resumed at 10 a.m. Thursday. Negotiators literally worked around-the-clock, finishing about 11 a.m. Friday.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.