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5/18/2013 6:00:00 AM AFSCME gives final OK to contract with state
By The Associated Press and NewsTribune staff
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois’ largest union has given the final go ahead on a three-year contract with the state.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 announced Friday that a second ratification is complete.
Having a contract in place should be a plus for the General Assembly as legislators face enormous problems to solve for Illinois, according to state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), whose district includes La Salle County.
“It’s always good to have a contract in place for all parties,” she said, explaining that still being in the middle of negotiations complicated some attempts to pass legislation. The contract will provide employees and legislators alike with some more certainties, she said. Don Petre — chief steward for AFSCME Local 2794, including about 800 members in the Illinois Valley — said certainly this was “not the best time to be negotiating a contract.”
Petre said AFSCME members realize the difficult financial condition the state is in, though it seems strange that the state gives money to entities such as the Mercantile Exchange at the same time the state is taking money out of the pockets of workers.
“I think under the current conditions, the contract that was negotiated by the negotiating team was probably a fair contract,” Petre said.
The approved agreement will result in $900 million in healthcare savings over the life of the contract, according to the governor’s office. The contract implements a new law requiring retirees to begin paying a modest portion of their health insurance premiums starting July 1. In addition, it includes modest cost-of-living-adjustments at a rate of 0 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent. The contract calls for new hires to start three steps lower, which amounts to about 9 percent less starting salary, which will save taxpayers money for years to come, the governor’s office stated.
State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) said without a contract in place, big agencies such as the Department of Corrections or human services would have had to make budget cuts before knowing exactly what salaries would be, or would have to make mid-year cuts after a contract settlement.
“Now at least we know what numbers we’re working with,” Mautino said, adding that human services is preparing now to make $700 million in cuts, “and it’s going to be painful.”
The governor’s office noted: “As part of the agreement, the union and the administration are seeking approximately $140 million in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 wages from the previous contract that remain an obligation of the state. The legislation is House Bill 212, House Amendment 2. The vote for final ratification comes after an agreement was unable to be implemented regarding pay raise litigation that has been tied up in court.”
The Associated Press reported: “(Attorney General Lisa) Madigan says she won’t drop the lawsuit until the money is approved,”
— NewsTribune news editor Craig Sterrett contributed to this report.
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