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City talks with unions to avoid layoffs

July 1, 2009 3:23:07 PM PDT
Chicago and its labor unions may be closer to a deal to avoid hundreds of layoffs. But some key unions remain holdouts. Mayor Daley says 1,500 jobs will be cut if no agreement is reached by July 15.

The city and close to 40 unions have been working since February to come up with an agreement that would avert layoffs. While most of those unions have agreed to a deal, three big unions have yet to sign on. Despite their objection to the city offer, Mayor Daley is confident everyone will be on board by the July 15 deadline.

Teamsters, laborers and AFSCME are all union holdouts in a deal that would save over 1,500 City of Chicago jobs. For several months, Mayor Daley has been working with unions to come up with a plan that would require cost cutting concessions in order to avoid layoffs.

"We've concluded it's better to have a job and have to take some reductions than to have no job at all," Mayor Daley said.

So far, close to 40 different unions have accepted a deal that involves furlough days and unpaid holidays.

"The rank-and-file members that we represent want a deal. The leadership has got to make sure they're doing the best job they can to get the deal that's going to protect the workers that are here," said Dennis Gannon, Chicago Federation of Labor.

But, Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon has yet to sell the deal to the three union hold outs. Between Teamsters, laborers and AFSCME, about 500 jobs are hanging in the balance.

While the city will not talk about the details of the proposal, AFSCME's executive director says his union has been offered a two-year plan that calls for 12 furlough days and 11 unpaid holidays per year for a total of 46 unpaid days. It's a deal that was voted down by Teamsters and AFSCME rank-and-file.

"Of course they think it's better to have a job, but they also think it's better not to have a 10 percent pay cut if you can avoid one, and we believe they both could be avoided if the city would negotiate in good faith," said Henry Bayer, AFSCME Council 31.

AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer says he has an alternative plan that would save the city the same amount of money, but Bayer believes the city doesn't want to hear it. The union accuses the mayor of dictating an agreement rather than negotiating one.

"There's no threats here," said Mayor Daley.

Mayor Daley is convinced there will be a deal by the July 15 deadline. AFSCME isn't sure.

"We're going to have everybody on that train," the mayor said.

The mayor and Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon would not say what would happen if the three union holdouts reject any deal by July 15. Although, it was hinted that the layoffs would be limited to those three unions.

Meantime, the City Council has already approved the mayor's proposal for 3,700 d non-union employees to take 15 unpaid furlough days for the rest of the year.


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