SPRINGFIELD – Governor George H. Ryan announced today that lawyers for the state have asked a Kane County Circuit Court to compel the largest state employee union to fully comply with their collective bargaining agreement because the union has previously disregarded provisions that allow the state to manage its workforce.
The governor also announced that the state has charged the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees with unfair labor practices before the Illinois State Labor Relations Board. The union has ignored contract provisions that spell out the procedures AFSCME must follow when it disagrees with state management decisions.
Ryan said both actions are necessary to make sure AFSCME does not prevent the state from taking appropriate steps to balance the state budget, such as permanent layoffs.
“It’s very unfortunate that we have to take these steps, but AFSCME has shown a willingness to ignore our contract in order to prevent us from doing what we need to do to balance the budget,” the governor said. “Instead of following the grievance procedures in the contract they signed, twice now they have bypassed their own agreement and gone straight to a judge to block my efforts to balance the state budget.”
Ryan said two of his proposals to help balance the state budget have been stymied by AFSCME’s tactics. A one-day unpaid furlough for 65,000 state employees and the privatization of all prison food services were derailed when AFSCME sought a temporary restraining order against the state. Both initiatives would have saved the state around $28 million. As a result of AFSCME’s tactics, the state has only realized about $2 million in savings.
State government is facing a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion. State tax collections have declined because of a national recession and the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
The governor added that the state employee layoffs initiated this week are a “last resort” to the state’s worsening financial picture. Massive layoffs of thousands of employees are necessary because AFSCME will not re-negotiate its contract and because the union has blocked cost-cutting measures.
“AFSCME leaders keep saying that they want us to stick to the contract. Yet they have shown a willingness to ignore that contract if it doesn’t suit their purposes,” the governor said.
Under the terms of the AFSCME contract, the state has the “exclusive right to manage its operations,” including personnel decisions. If AFSCME does not agree with a management decision, they are required to follow the grievance procedure set forth in Article V of the contract. When dealing with personnel decisions that affect entire agencies, the grievance procedure includes appeals to agency directors and binding arbitration. The contract does not give AFSCME the option of seeking a court order to stop a personnel decision by management.
Last year, state lawyers and AFSCME adjudicated more than 1,100 employee grievances through the procedures set up in the union contract.
On March 25, a special assistant attorney general filed “a motion to compel arbitration” against AFSCME in Kane County Circuit Court. A hearing has been scheduled for April 3rd in that matter. If successful, this action would prevent AFSCME from seeking any court order to stop employee layoffs.
Also on March 25, the Department of Central Management Services filed an “unfair labor practice” charge against AFSCME with the Illinois State Labor Relations Board. This charge mirrors the court complaint. If the Board finds merit in the charge, it would direct AFSCME to “cease and desist from pursuing court action” with regard to the one-day furlough plan.