Rauner trying to end step increases: AFSCME

Republican Bruce Rauner smiles after winning the midterm elections in Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration wants to abolish step increases, or scheduled raises based on time in service, according to the state’s largest public-employee union.

The Rauner administration, however, says that’s a stretch of the truth and argues the governor has never proposed a compensation system based solely on merit.

Council 31 of the the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees told its members that the administration has “clearly stated across the bargaining table that … (the state’s) demands include not just a step freeze, but the abolition of the step plan in state government.”

The union says Rauner is taking a no-compromise approach that belies his stance before the legislators and the public, according to the memo obtained by WMAY Radio in Springfield.

“Despite the governor’s assurances to concerned legislators that he would work in good faith to reach a fair contract settlement with state employees, there’s no evidence so far that he intends to do so,” the union said.

AFSCME Council 31 says the administration is arguing for a merit pay system in which only those employees who meet the “high performance” criteria would be “eligible for any form of increase in their pay.”

The union says that increase would take the form of one-year bonus that would not be added to an employee’s base pay and would not be countable for pension purposes.

A Rauner administration spokeswoman called AFSCME’s bargaining bulletin “false and misleading.”

“The governor has never proposed eliminating step increases,” spokeswoman Lyndsey Walters wrote in an email. “In fact, he has proposed a temporary freeze until the budget is balanced and the state can once again afford to pay automatic increases.”

Among other items, Walters also disputed AFSCME’s characterization of the Rauner’s pay proposals.

She said the governor has “proposed a bonus system that would include an automatic immediate bonus to every AFSCME employee before January 1, 2016, and additional bonuses to those employees with exceptional performance based on objective performance standards. The governor has also guaranteed that at least 25 percent of the state workforce will receive these performance bonuses every year of the contract.”

The contracts for the state’s unionized employees expired at the end of June.

While the administration has reached agreements with Teamster units representing roughly 4,600 members across the state, about 40,000 state employees are working without contracts.

The administration and the unions still without contracts have signed “tolling agreements,” in which both sides promise to stay at the bargaining table without threatening strike or lockout. The agreements do not make a lockout or strike impossible, but the initiating party would have to declare talks are at an impasse, and the Illinois Labor Relations Board would exam that claim.

AFSCME and other unions are also suing in St. Clair County Circuit Court in an attempt to lock in pay while the state operates without a contract, as well as to get medical claims paid, stop layoffs and retain certain raises during the budget standoff between the Republican governor and the Generally Assembly, where Democrats have a supermajority in each chamber.

The Rauner administration last month announced it would suspend its planned layoffs while the matter is being litigated.

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