Union leaders ditch talks with Daley

June 10, 2009 (CHICAGO) Union leaders were a no-show on Wednesday for a meeting with Mayor Daley at City Hall.

Layoff notices to a thousand city workers could soon be going in the mail. ABC7 has learned that those layoff notices are only a day or two from being sent to over a thousand city workers.

The jobs are on the line as Chicago tries to balance a projected $250 million deficit. On Wednesday, Mayor Daley hoped to meet with labor leaders on his plan to save those jobs but the meeting did not happen.

The city's negotiating team arrived early before what we were told was the 11:45 a.m. start time. At around 12:30 p.m. Mayor Daley's spokeswoman delivered the news.

"The mayor's team was there. The mayor was there. And the labor leaders were not there," said Jackie Heard, mayor's spokeswoman.

Heard said one of the labor leaders did call Wednesday morning to postpone the meeting.

"There was no stated reason. We remain hopeful that they inform us of a time they will be available for a meeting," said Heard.

There has been virtually no progress between the city and labor leaders on the mayor's proposal that all 33,000 unionized Chicago workers take 16 days off without pay to help balance the growing deficit. City officials threaten that if labor leaders don't agree to the furlough days as many as 1,100 of their members will be laid off.

Union leader Henry Bayer wants Daley to use the city's reserve fund to pay bills, adding that 16 furlough days would affect the quality of services.

"The city work force is not a private bank for the mayor's office where every time they run a little short they can come and say okay, we want to you stop working, stop providing services and we'll cut your pay," said Henry Bayer, AFSCME Council 31.

Heard said the flu-stricken mayor came to his office Wednesday morning primarily because he thought the union leaders would come later for negotiations.

In fact, Daley's only public appearance since last Tuesday was at the funeral of police officer Alejandro Valadez. The spokeswoman said Daley's low profile has had nothing to do with the controversy surrounding his nephew, Robert Vanecko, who is under federal investigation related to city pension fund deals.

"He doesn't dodge controversy. He doesn't welcome it...obviously none of us do but he certainly doesn't dodge it. You can think of countless times in the past when controversies have come and he's stood there and taken your questions," said Heard.

City officials want an agreement on furloughs in effect by July 1. By contract they have to give the workers two weeks notice so that's why the layoff letters have to be mailed so soon.

Some union leaders say if there have to be furloughs they want members' jobs guaranteed for the next two years. The mayor has said he cannot do that.

Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.

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