Union warns members of Rauner push in labor talks to freeze pay, cut benefits

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s largest employee union is telling its members that Governor Rauner wants to freeze their pay and cut holiday and vacation time.

The “State Journal-Register” reports that was the message in a notice sent out in a bulletin from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The bulletin also reportedly notes the administration is asking for deep cuts in health care coverage that would drive up the costs to members by some five-hundred-percent. There’s been no comment so far from the administration.

AFSCME, which represents the largest group of state workers at about 38,000 members, has been in talks for months with the Republican governor’s administration on a new contact. The current AFSCME contract expires after June 30.

The bulletin says the Rauner administration is taking a hardline push in labor talks. It says the administration:

  • Wants a salary freeze for the length of the contract.
  • Wants to eliminate step increases available to workers during their first eight years on the job and to take back longevity pay that is awarded to workers who no longer qualify for step increases.
  • Is seeking to reduce vacation and holiday time off.
  • And wants to eliminate additional pay for working in maximum-security facilities, being called back to work and for continuing education.

While the bulletin did not specify what changes the administration is seeking for health insurance benefits, it did say it would increase employee costs by more than 500 percent.

It also warns of the administration’s push to have workers in the Tier 1 pension plan to voluntarily switch to the lower-cost Tier 2 plan, which provides reduced benefits. Rauner’s pension reform proposal calls for freezing benefits for workers in the Tier 1 plan and switching them to Tier 2 for the remainder of the time they work for the state.

The bulletin also says the administration is trying to eliminate restrictions on privatizing state work. The union contends that the changes the administration is seeking would allow state workers to be laid off and the work sent to private vendors.