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Rauner implements merit pay for some workers; AFSCME opposed

Published: Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 11:52 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP file photo)
Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference March 20 in Chicago. Rauner's administration is outlining a new compensation system for state workers that includes merit pay and bonuses for employees who save taxpayers money. General counsel Jason Barclay said in a memo Wednesday that the administration is implementing the system for members of 17 labor unions that signed new collective bargaining agreements last year.

CHICAGO – Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration is starting a new compensation system for some state workers that includes merit pay and bonuses for saving taxpayers money, a plan the former businessman says will make government more efficient.

But Illinois' largest public-employee union is balking at the Republican's idea, saying it's "ripe for abuse" and political favoritism and that bonuses shouldn't replace regular salary increases as Rauner has proposed.

It's the latest sticking point in long-running negotiations between Rauner's office and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 36,000 state employees. The two sides have been in contract talks for more than a year — including several days this week — but remain far from an agreement. The previous contract expired June 30, though both sides agreed last year to keep negotiating without the possibility of a strike, work slowdown or lockout.

The administration is implementing the new pay system for employees not covered by union contracts and with members of 17 of the state's smaller public-employee unions covering more than 5,000 state workers that have signed new collective bargaining agreements since Rauner took office, general counsel Jason Barclay told agency directors in a memo Wednesday.

Barclay said the administration has proposed a similar deal for AFSCME.

It would provide a bonus pool equal to 2 percent of annual payroll for union employees. One-quarter of that money would go to workers who miss no more than seven "assigned work days" and don't commit any "work policy violations" in a fiscal year, the memo states. The rest of the bonus pool would go to workers who meet performance standards that would be set by their agency "in consultation with the union."

The administration also is offering a "gainsharing" program that would allow workers to share in "significant portions" of savings their agency achieves.

AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the plan would allow Rauner's agency heads, whom he appoints, to reward certain workers based on criteria they set.

"This Rauner plan would open the door to cronyism and favoritism that AFSCME believes should be kept out of government entirely," Lindall said. "It's why so-called 'merit pay' plans are better termed 'political pay' and have been rejected by so many employers in public service."

Rauner deputy chief of staff Mike Schrimpf accused AFSCME of using scare tactics to outright reject a "reasonable proposal that should generate discussion."

"AFSCME's actions today are further proof why there has been so little movement at the bargaining table," Schrimpf said.

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