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AFSCME workers ratify new state contract

NPR Illinois

The largest union of Illinois state employees has voted overwhelmingly to approve a new four year contract, according to AFSCME Council 31.

The union negotiated for months with Gov. JB Pritzker's administration and a deal was reached in early July. Ratification took place over the past two weeks.

In a statement Tuesday, the union said the deal includes a 4% pay increase retroactive to July 1.

"In all, base wages will rise 17.95% over four years. Other provisions include expanded parental leave to 12 weeks and new joint efforts to improve workplace safety," it said.

“AFSCME members care deeply about serving their communities. They go above and beyond to meet challenges like the COVID pandemic and staff shortages,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “This contract helps to address the toll that inflation has taken on state employee incomes and keeps health care affordable.”

AFSCME, which represents about 35,000 state employees, also said the contract focuses on changes to expedite the filling of vacancies and improve strategies to recruit, hire, and retain workers, such as:

  • Modernizing how vacancies with state agencies are filled by updating the contract language to reflect the state’s transition to an electronic hiring process. 
  • A commitment to work together to streamline the state’s hiring process to improve the pace at which vacancies are filled.
  • Increasing hiring and retention of current employees by forming a joint labor-management committee that will meet to identify roadblocks to hiring.
  • Implementing a pilot program for recruitment bonuses for positions that have high vacancy rates.
  • Ensuring that employees on parental leave may still bid on vacancies during their leave.

“Illinois is a pro-worker state—and when it comes to workers’ rights, my administration is committed to ensuring that every Illinoisan has access to good-paying opportunities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This contract represents a partnership that won’t just expand our pool of state employees—it will strengthen our state’s workforce and provide opportunity for employees and their families. I’m thankful for a productive negotiation that led to a contract which recognizes the valuable contributions of state employees and makes government more efficient.”

According to the governor's office, the estimated impact of the AFSCME contract ratification stipends and cost-of-living adjustments over the four years is approximately $625 million, with $204 million for the first year COLA and stipends.

The office also touts a streamlined approach to discipline in the contract. It said employees failing to attend work is one of the most common issues leading to employee discipline.

"The new contract streamlines the process that the employer must follow before discharging an employee for documented and consistent attendance problems," the office said.  

The contract includes language allowing telehealth documentation to be accepted in the disciplinary process.

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