CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today said he was prepared to return the legally-mandated cost of living increases that he and his cabinet will receive next fiscal year and freeze the salaries of the nearly 10,000 merit employees reporting to him in order to spare them from layoffs. At the same time, he urged the state’s largest employee union, AFSCME, to agree to similar contract concessions in order to spare them from more layoffs.
The Governor called upon AFSCME leadership to come to the bargaining table in order to negotiate short-term concessions to balance the state’s budget and prevent permanent layoffs. Approximately 1,000 layoff notices are going out to state employees this week after the employee union stymied several alternative cost-cutting plans.
Gov. Ryan said a combination of a one-day furlough, the privatization of prison food services, early retirement and a one-year wage freeze for the 45,000 AFSCME members would save the state more than $100 million and avoid layoffs. However AFSCME has successfully obtained court orders stalling the plans for employee furloughs and prison food service privatization.
“I do not understand why AFSCME refuses to negotiate on these reasonable alternatives to thousands of permanent layoffs,” Gov. Ryan said. “We could save jobs and this process could be a lot less painful.”
The Governor commended the Compensation Review Board for agreeing with the administration’s recommendation of no pay raises for the governor and cabinet members. The cost-of-living adjustments Gov. Ryan and his cabinet are willing to forgo are, by law, automatically scheduled for July.
State agencies have received increased budgets over the past three years and will be able to continue to upgrade and provide essential services. For example, DCFS Director Jess McDonald has indicated that the caseloads of social workers will remain below the national average. At the Department of Corrections, the inmates to correctional officers ratio has improved for the past three years and--even with the layoffs--we will still have a better security officer to inmate ratio than when Governor Ryan took office.
“My administration is willing to tighten its belt to help get the state through this difficult budgetary time. I would hope the members of AFSCME would do the same and in so doing help prevent thousands of their fellow members from losing their jobs,” Gov. Ryan said.