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April 18, 2000

State, AFSCME Reach Tentative Agreement On Four-Year Contract

SPRINGFIELD -- The State of Illinois and its largest employee union have announced tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract that will boost employee wages by a minimum of 19.3% compounded over the life of the agreement.

"We are very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that recognizes the importance of the work that state employees perform," said Governor George Ryan," and that we were able to do so within the state's budgetary framework. This agreement is fair to employees and fair to taxpayers."

Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, also hailed the agreement. "We believe this is a contract that will improve the standard of living and the working lives of all of our members in state government," he said.

The contract includes wages increases of 3.5%, 3.75%, 3.75%, and 4% over the four years. It also includes a restructuring of the State's pay plan that addresses the needs of both low-wage workers and long-term employees, resulting in higher increases for many.

Governor Ryan said it was important that the contract negotiations were concluded before the General Assembly finalized the state's FY 2001 budget. "We were able to build in a solid base for the first year wage increases," he said.

Pension improvements included in the agreement will allow thousands of state employees to take an earlier retirement, Bayer said. A new provision, known as the "Rule of 85," allows employees on the standard pension to retire with fewer than 30 years of service. In addition, the new contract includes a provision raising the monthly pension for employees on the alternative formula. The affected employees will share in the cost of the enhanced alternative formula.

Under the new agreement, employees will pay a portion of the state's increased health care costs, but a smaller portion than State negotiators had originally proposed. "Our members never said they were unwilling to contribute toward their health insurance costs, but they were determined not to pay the kind of massive premium increases that were on the bargaining table, " Bayer said.

Governor Ryan stressed the soaring employee health care costs had been one of the State's primary concerns. "We want to provide the highest quality insurance for our employees, but it is an expensive proposition to do so," he noted.

Ryan had also pressed for a change in the Department of Corrections drug testing policy to allow for discharge of employees who test positive for drugs on the first offense. The Union agreed to the change to be effective in January based on the State's commitment to revamp the current testing procedure to insure greater accuracy and fairness.

The tentative agreement must still be ratified by the AFSCME members, who will begin voting at worksite meetings next week. Many of the details of the new agreement will not be released until the ratification meetings are held.

Bayer said that the union's 265-member Bargaining Committee had overwhelmingly recommended ratification and he believes that union members throughout the state will be enthusiastic about the new agreement.

Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents 44,000 state employees.


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