State workers are talking about going on strike if contract talks don’t show more progress. The state is involved in negotiations with AFSCME, which represents 40,000 state workers. The union hasn’t expressly threatened a strike, but is urging members to be prepared in case.
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Gov. Pat Quinn says the state is “always prepared” for such an incident, but he wouldn’t say how, and he said he isn’t worried. “I’m optimistic that people of good faith working together for the common good can come up with an agreement that works for the taxpayers and works for those who labor for the public,” he said.
The administration is no longer asking for wage cuts, but is asking for a three-year wage freeze. The union is OK with a one-year freeze, if the state pays the raises that were cancelled in 2011. A judge has ruled that the state must pay those raises, but the state is appealing the ruling; the union is asking the state to drop the appeal.
Also at issue are health insurance changes that the union says would cost workers $10,000 each over a three-year contract.
Illinois is one of a handful of states in which public employees are allowed to go on strike, though public safety employees, including guards at prisons and juvenile detention centers, are not permitted to strike. State workers represented by AFSCME never have gone on strike in Illinois.