Contract negotiations between Rauner/union getting heated

SPRINGFIELD — Negotiations between the governor and the state’s largest public employee union are getting hot – and public.

The governor slammed the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) during a news conference as he implored lawmakers to uphold his veto of Senate Bill 1229 – which would effectively take the governor out of contract negotiations when the two sides don’t agree and send disputes straight to arbitration.

But Rauner says there’s at least one thing he won’t do.

Rauner says if he wanted to do a lockout of AFSCME, he would have already done it. But that he has absolutely no interest, and has said so publicly.

What about a strike?

Rauner claims union demands on salary and benefits are unreasonable, but an AFSCME spokesman disputes that.

But AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall says Rauner’s claims are false, and that on pay the union wants only to keep up with the rising cost of living. On health care, they think it should stay affordable for workers, their families and retirees – whereas Rauner is demanding a 500% increase in what workers and retirees have to pay.

A look at state school superintendent Tony Smith’s employment contract shows a three and a half year deal starts at $225-thousand dollars, with three-percent raises each year.

Smith gets 35 days’ vacation, which is seven full weeks, but can bank 20 of those days each year and cash them in when he leaves.

And while all state employees are required to pay for part of their health insurance and pension, the Board agreed to pick up Smith’s employee contribution for both, a perk worth thousands of dollars a year.

The two sides are not close to a deal.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) says his chamber has enough votes to override the governor’s veto, and will likely do so once the Senate takes it up next week.