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State Employee Union Takes Pay Raise Case To Arbitrator

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Updated 07/07/11 – 3:21 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – A major labor union has asked an independent arbitrator to intervene in their dispute with Gov. Pat Quinn over his decision to cancel pay raises for some 30,000 state employees.

Quinn has said the Illinois General Assembly has not provided enough money to approve the $75 million in raises, so they cannot be provided. The move affects 14 state agencies.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Alex Degman reports

AFSCME Council 31’s Deputy Director Roberta Lynch, however, said the governor’s plan to skip the raises is unlawful because it’s a contractual obligation. Despite the dispute, she said workers are still doing their jobs.

“The employees are understandably very frustrated and very demoralized,” Lynch said. “They’ve already sacrificed three times, they’ve deferred scheduled pay raises, and they’ve taken thousands of voluntary unpaid furlough days.”

Lynch said the governor vetoed nearly $300 million out of the budget late last month, so there’s no reason why employees shouldn’t get what they were promised.

“That’s as much as four times as much, or three times as much, as these raises would cost. So that’s a totally specious argument,” she said.

Lynch said state workers have been helping the state save money for years by deferring raises and taking voluntary furlough days – and the governor’s actions are a slap in the face to front line state workers.

The union is asking an independent arbitrator to enforce the contract and require the state to pay the raises negotiated in the contract.

“By refusing to pay state employees in accordance with the contract, Governor Quinn has violated an agreement that was fairly bargained and legally binding,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said in a news release. “This is about integrity. What is the value of the governor’s word if he can break it? What is the value of a contract if it can be ignored? Bringing this matter before the arbitrator is our union’s first step in seeing that the contract is upheld and integrity is restored.”

The union said its request for arbitration does not preclude the possibility of filing a lawsuit later.

Union members also plan to picket throughout the state on Tuesday.

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