Our View: State workers suffer with step-increase delays

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It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the little guy is the one caught in the middle of a fight.

For this fight, we have on one side the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner and on the other the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. At issue is step increases, the automatic raises given to state employees during the first seven to 10 years of their careers.

Except those raises haven’t been given to AFSCME employees for more than three years now. And while the two aforementioned sides duke it out in court, there, in the middle, are the state employees who keep the state government operating. They are the ones who have put off making big purchases or struggled to pay bills while the various challenges wind themselves through the often-glacial paced legal process.

Step increases have not been awarded since the last contract between the state and AFSCME expired in June 2015. AFSCME contends a ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board said workers had to be restored to their proper step status by Oct. 1. But the Rauner administration disagrees, and wants more time to compute how much money is owed to each employee. Let’s not forget that no money was set aside in this year’s budget to pay for these increases, so the funds need to be found to pay them too.

Complicating matters, the two sides disagree how much step pay is owed. The Rauner administration says it doesn’t owe anything after Jan. 8, 2016, when it declared an impasse in contract talks with AFSCME. But the union does not agree the two sides are at an impasse, and argues the step payments must be made up through the present day. (Side note: The ILRB has said negotiations are at an impasse, but that is being fought at the appellate court level.)

That is, of course, a simplified version of the many nuances of this saga. Through it all are the workers who just want to be paid what they are owed. And given the speed at which things have progressed so far, it’s fair to assume it could be several more months before final decisions are rendered.

You can probably put this in the “never gonna happen” column, but the Rauner administration and AFSCME should, for the sake of the workers, work out a middle ground for now so these employees get something while they wait for the legal wrangling to be done.

Perhaps that can be found in the different reports the Rauner administration said it is preparing for each state government agency affected. They are doing one report assuming no money is owed after Jan. 8, 2016; another assuming the increases have to be paid through present day; and a third that assumes nothing is owed after Dec. 13, 2016, when the ILRB ruled on the impasse issue.

A compromise, allowing the increases through December 2016, should be considered. That would give employees a year and a half of the increases they are owed. It would give time for the legal challenges to wind their way through court. It would mean the state does have to come up with a lot of money, but not as much as it might if the steps had to be brought up to date.

At some point, a new contract will be agreed upon between the state and AFSCME. When that happens, back pay will be part of the deal. Having a portion of it already paid out would be good not only for the employees, but the state’s checkbook (which is never in healthy shape to begin with). No one wins everything they want in this scenario, but everyone would get something.

00-Pol RT,22-Talk,19-Legal,16-Econ,26-Delivered

Region: Springfield,Feeds,Sang,Editorial,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Editorials – The State Journal-Register https://ift.tt/1EQ76xA

October 6, 2018 at 05:09PM

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