State puts employee layoffs on hold

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Layoffs of state unionized employees are on hold.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Tuesday confirmed it was putting the brakes on the layoffs while they are being contested in court.

“Layoffs of union employees have stopped at this time due to pending litigation,” the governor’s press office said in a written statement.

“The administration believes legal proceedings will confirm that the agencies have properly followed the law in executing these layoffs,” the administration wrote. “We hope to reach a final resolution very soon.”

State employee unions filed new complaints this month in their existing lawsuit in St. Clair County in an effort to guarantee continued pay despite lack of a state budget, get employee medical claims paid and stop nearly 160 layoffs scheduled for Sept. 30.

Sean Smoot, director of the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, confirmed the layoffs of about 20 conservation police officers are among those halted.

The “Conservation Police Lodge represented by the PBPA and the state of Illinois agreed to defer implementing any layoffs while the parties continue to discuss and or litigate the propriety of the proposed layoff of conservation police employees,” Smoot said in a written statement.

“Accordingly, we have been assured that the layoffs will not occur as scheduled on Sept. 30. We have been told that official notification of the agreement is being sent to the affected agencies and employees today,” the union leader said.

The state also agreed to defer proposed layoffs of employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Smoot added.

In court, the unions are seeking an injunction barring the layoffs. They argue the state’s “lack of funds” reason is “demonstrably false” and contend there’s enough money in the state treasury to continue employing the workers.

In addition to arguing the layoffs would amount to an impairment of a contractual relationship, the unions also contend the layoffs are premature in light of pending grievances.
In the case of the conservation police officers, the unions also argue that funding comes largely from sources other than the state’s general funds.

The halt in the layoffs comes as Illinois is winding out its third month without either a state budget or new contracts with its biggest employee unions.

State workers continue to report to work, and the Rauner administration and unions have
so far have agreed to three “tolling agreements,” or deals to stay at the bargaining table without threat of lockout or strike.

The plaintiffs in the St. Clair County lawsuit include AFSCME, PBPA, IFT and several other unions. In total, they represent about 40,000 state employees.

Defendants include the first-term Republican governor, state Comptroller Leslie Munger, R-Lincolnshire, and Tom Tyrell, the Rauner administration’s director of Central Management Services.

A Rauner spokeswoman had no comment on whether the pause or halt in layoffs would affect the planned Sept. 30 closure of the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and related facilities around the state.

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