SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois’ largest state employee union is bringing in an arbitrator to decide if Gov. Pat Quinn can void pay raises for 30,000 union workers.

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois’ largest state employee union is bringing in an arbitrator to decide if Gov. Pat Quinn can void pay raises for 30,000 union workers.

 

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wants the arbitrator to enforce terms of an agreement Quinn reached with the union last fall.

The arbitrator, Edwin Benn, has given AFSCME and the state until July 16 to file briefs. AFSCME says Benn could issue a ruling or schedule hearings.  Either side can appeal Benn’s ruling in court.

“By refusing to pay state employees in accordance with the contract, Governor Quinn has violated an agreement that was fairly bargained and legally binding,” AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer said in a statement. “What is the value of the governor’s word if he can break it? What is the value of a contract if it can be ignored?”

Quinn announced last week that he is rescinding scheduled pay raises for union workers in 14 state agencies, boards, commissions and authorities.  Most of those workers are AFSCME members, although some belong to other unions.

Quinn said he had no choice because the General Assembly did not appropriate enough money to pay salaries, including the raises, for an entire year in those agencies. Those agencies would run out of salary money before the end of the budget year if the raises are enacted, he said.  Voiding the raises will save the state about $75 million.

About 21,000 union workers in other state agencies are not affected by the decision. Quinn said lawmakers appropriated enough money to those agencies.

The AFSCME agreement calls for a 2 percent raise July 1, 1.25 percent Jan. 1, 2012, and 2 percent Feb. 1, 20 12.

Benn oversaw an agreement between AFSCME and Quinn in January 2010 to end a lawsuit over layoffs threatened by the governor. That agreement gave Benn authority to resolve disputes.

Quinn and AFSCME reached another agreement last fall to postpone a scheduled pay increase while Quinn promised no layoffs or facility closures until June 2012, when AFSCME’s current contract expires.  Benn was again given authority to resolve disputes.

AFSCME said seeking an arbitrator’s ruling does not preclude the union from also filing a lawsuit to challenge Quinn’s decision.  The union said it is still reviewing its legal options.

The administration did not address questions about the arbitration.

“Last week we notified the directors of 14 agencies and the impacted unions that approximately 30,000 state employees will not be receiving pay raises in the new fiscal year,” said an administration statement. “The fiscal year 2012 budget does not provide the money to fund these raises, and doing so would mean that the 14 impacted agencies would not be able to make payroll for the entire year, preventing them from continuing to provide core services to the people of Illinois. The administration will take every step necessary to manage the fiscal year 2012 budget.”

AFSCME plans informational pickets at work sites around the state Tuesday to highlight the wage dispute.  AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said union locals are still working out details of which sites will be picketed and at what times.

 

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.