By Jamey Dunn
Thousands of government employees whose jobs were threatened by budget cuts got a reprieve after the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 reached an agreement with Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration.
After a tax increase failed to pass last session, Quinn said that necessary cuts would force the state to lay off 2,600 workers. Almost 600 employees have already received layoff notices. Quinn originally proposed that workers take unpaid days off or a pass on yearly raises in order to cut back on the number of state employees who would lose their jobs. AFSCME did not agree to those terms and sued the state. A judge blocked the layoffs to allow more time for negotiations.
According to AFSCME, the deal that was reached will save about 400 jobs out of the 600. Quinn promised no more layoffs through June 2011, except those that would happen due to already planned facility closures. The agreement also calls for no new facility closures through 2011.
In return, the union will cut annual raises in half, from 2 percent to 1 percent, during the time period that Quinn guaranteed no new layoffs and will allow the administration to implement a voluntary furlough program. The state and the union plan to work together to trim $70 million out of the employee health care system by searching for efficiencies and changing purchasing practices.
According to the Quinn administration, the deal will save the state an estimated $200 million.