Union says state has had plenty of time already
The Rauner administration wants more time to comply with an order to provide step raises owed to thousands of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
In a response to the Illinois Labor Relations Board filed late Monday, the administration said it needs more time to compute how much money is owed to which employees.
The issue is further complicated, administration lawyers said, because the two sides still disagree about how much step pay is owed. The administration contends it doesn’t owe anything after Jan. 8, 2016, which is when the administration declared an impasse in its contract talks with AFSCME. The union, though, doesn’t agree that the two sides are at impasse and said the state must make the payments up to the present day.
AFSCME and the state are in court over the impasse issue. The administration said that case should be resolved before step pay earned after Jan. 8, 2016 is awarded.
AFSCME said the letter filed by the administration’s lawyers is “throwing up more roadblocks and asking for further delays.”
“Bruce Rauner’s failed term as governor has been marked by senseless attacks on working people,” said AFSCME executive director Roberta Lynch in a statement. “Now he’s illegally denying wages owed to the youngest and lowest-paid public service workers in state government.”
AFSCME said its lawyers are reviewing the administration response and determining what steps to take next.
AFSCME said a ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board said workers had to be restored to their proper step status by Oct. 1. The administration stopped awarding step increases after AFSCME’s last contract with the state expired in June, 2015. Step increases are automatic raises given to workers in the first seven to 10 years of their careers.
A compliance officer in August asked the state to document who is owed what for the step increases, including people who no longer work for the state or are deceased. Administration lawyers said computing the information is enormously complex and that more time is needed to comply.
The lawyers noted that step raises were also suspended during a contract stalemate in 2012-2013 under former Gov. Pat Quinn. When a new contract was negotiated with AFSCME, overdue step increases had to be computed for thousands of employees by hand. The administration said employees worked seven days a week for months to compute and verify what was owed and even then errors occurred that resulted in overpayments that had to be recovered.
The administration said the process is more automated now, but it still needs more time to provide all of the information requested by the compliance officer.
The administration said it is preparing three different reports for each agency: one assuming no money is owed after January 8, 2016; one assuming money has to be paid up to the present time; and one that assumes nothing is owed after December 13, 2016 when the ILRB ruled on the impasse issue.
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said a court ruled in November 2017 that the state had to make good on the step increases.
“They’ve had plenty of time to prepare and make what is a straightforward calculation,” he said. “You could ask any state employee and they could tell you off the top of their head what step they’re supposed to be at.”