By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and the state’s biggest public-employee union have reached their third pact to continue contract talks without threat of strike or lockout.
This time, the extension or tolling agreement does not include an end date.
Instead, both the administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 agree to stay at the table until they reach impasse.
Should the talks stall, the administration and union could agree impasse has been reached or, should their be a dispute over that question, they agree to submit the matter to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.
If the matter is submitted to the ILRB, the tolling agreement remains in effect until the ILRB resolves the matter.
The deal was signed Wednesday and made public Thursday afternoon.
The agreement notes that two sides continue to disagree on step increases and semi-automatic promotions, and neither side concedes those issues.
All contractual rights that existed before the previous state-AFSCME contract expired at the end of June remain in effect. Both sides retain all of their legal rights.
The newest deal to keep talking follows a bruising political battle over the “no strike-no lockout” or interest arbitration bill that AFSCME supported and the governor opposed.
Senate Bill 1229, would have allowed mandatory arbitration should either the state or its unionized employees declare a bargaining impasse
Once the binding arbitration hearing began, a strike or lockout would have been prohibited. In the end, a panel of arbitrators would have picked from either the state’s or the union’s final offers on economic-interest items such as pay and benefits.
Democrats argued the bill only gave unionized workers a chance at equal footing with Rauner, whom they accused of wanting to break public-sector unions, especially AFSCME, which represents more than 35,000 state employees.
The GOP painted the bill as political gift to AFSCME and said it would take a tax increase to fund what would be a nearly guaranteed $1.6 billion or larger raise should the bill pass.
The bill easily passed through the Legislature in regular session, but it was vetoed by Rauner.
The governor’s veto was overridden in the Senate, but House Democrats last week came up three votes short in their override effort.