Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Arbitrator: Quinn pay freeze violates collective bargaining agreement, wage schedule must be restored

From AFSCME Council 31:

An independent arbitrator has ruled that Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to impose a unilateral pay freeze on nearly 30,000 employees in 14 state agencies is a violation of the master contract and related agreements between the State of Illinois and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.

Arbitrator Edwin Benn has ordered the state to restore the contractually obligated pay schedule and make whole employees for the 2% increase due July 1.

“Frontline state employees are out there every day doing the real work of state government and the Quinn Administration, as their employer, should keep its commitments to them,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said.

“We have always said what’s at stake here is much more than a pay increase. This is a question of whether the fundamental right of working people to bargain collectively will be upheld in Illinois,” Bayer said. “We welcome this ruling because it makes clear that the governor cannot simply break a contract at will. We call on the governor to keep his word and accept the arbitrator’s clear ruling to avoid further costly litigation.”

Arbitrator Benn’s key finding:

Under the mandatory, clear and simple terms of the negotiated language, the State must pay the 2% wage increase effective July 1, 2011. As a matter of contract, the State has no choice.

The remedy ordered by Benn:

In the exercise of my remedial discretion and to restore the status quo ante and make the adversely impacted employees whole for the State’s clear violation of the Agreement and the Cost Savings Agreements, the State is directed to pay the 2% increase to all bargaining unit classifications and steps and continue to pay that increase and, within 30 days from the date of this award, to make whole those employees who did not receive those increases effective July 1, 2011.

The arbitrator noted the significant efforts by AFSCME-represented state employees to help the state address its budget shortfall:

Recognizing the serious financial circumstances facing the State and in order to avoid layoffs of potentially thousands of employees, the Union responded to the State’s fiscal problems and agreed to concessions from the 2008-2012 Agreement — one of which was to defer 2% of a 4% increase due July 1, 2011. The total concessions agreed to by the Union were in the vicinity of $400,000,000.

Making clear that Governor Quinn’s action strikes at the very foundation of the right to collective bargaining, Benn wrote:

If the State is correct that economic provisions of multi-year collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable or are contingent upon subsequent appropriations for the out years of the agreements, then the collective bargaining process will be, to say the least, severely undermined. If the State is correct, the result will be most chaotic and costly …. If the State is correct in its statutory and Constitutional arguments, the multi-year collective bargaining agreement is, for all purposes, probably dead.

From Benn’s conclusion:

In sum, and notwithstanding all of the arguments presented, this is a very simple case with a very simple bottom line. … [W]hen the State did not pay the increase

effective July 1, 2011 for all bargaining unit classifications and steps (i.e., to the employees in the 14 departments, boards, authorities and commissions), the State did not keep its promise. The State must now keep its promise.


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