CHICAGO – A judge ordered additional arbitration Monday in a dispute between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and a major union over government pay raises.
A nonbinding arbitrator’s ruling last summer sided with the union representing nearly 30,000 state workers, saying they should get the raise.
Now, Cook County Judge Richard Billik, Jr., says the arbitrator should consider the administration’s contention that $75 million needed was not provided by the Legislature in the budget for the 2012 fiscal year.
Quinn has refused to pay most of the wage increases agreed to in a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees because he says lawmakers did not appropriate sufficient funds for it. Only a few hundred of the affected workers have received the raises, money carved out by small agencies that employ them.
The union contends that enough funding was made available, and an arbitrator’s non-binding decision in July 2011 indicated that, either way, the Democratic governor was bound by the contract and must pay.
Quinn sued and AFSCME countersued.
Acting on those suits, Judge Billik sided with some of the administration’s arguments, including that Quinn can’t spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by lawmakers even if bound by a contract.
But the judge said that for that argument to hold up, the administration must prove that it lacked the funds, and he ordered the matter sent back to the arbitrator for additional fact-finding. No date was immediately set.
“It is the court’s view that because the amount of funds is disputed, further proceedings are necessary. ... The case is
remanded to arbitration,” Billik said.
The union said the extra delay was frustrating.
“State employees are understandably frustrated by the
delay in securing the pay they’re entitled to,” said Henry Bayer, director of AFSCME Council 31. “We are prepared to make our case before the arbitrator and hopeful that justice will prevail when we do.”
A spokeswoman for the government did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The contract called for a 4 percent increase on July 1, 2011. But AFSCME agreed to postpone half of that for seven months to help the state balance its budget deficit. On top of that, another 1.25 percent raise was to be made on Jan. 1.