The state and its largest employee union have agreed to a plan that will avoid massive layoffs in exchange for reduced pay hikes and a voluntary furlough program.

The state and its largest employee union have agreed to a plan that will avoid massive layoffs in exchange for reduced pay hikes and a voluntary furlough program.


The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 also won an agreement to prohibit any state facility closures – beyond those already announced – until June 30, 2011.


"This mediated resolution strengthens job security for AFSCME members by avoiding mass layoffs and forced furloughs, and it protects the essential public services our members provide," AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said Tuesday night in an e-mailed statement. "Mass layoffs would harm the state's prospects for economic recovery, putting state employees in the same long lines at unemployment and human-services offices they now staff."


Quinn's office issued an e-mailed statement saying the agreement will save the state $200 million.


"Through the collective bargaining process, the state and AFSCME worked together to settle differences, save money and achieve a constructive relationship going forward," the statement said. "The combination of employee furlough days, decreased pay increases and avoiding costly litigation will help to ease the state's budgetary woes. The Quinn Administration has long believed that employee furloughs are preferable to imposing deep employee lay-offs and is grateful that AFSCME agreed to this approach."


The agreement hammered out includes:


_Deferral of half the pay raises due on July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011. The AFSCME contract called for 2 percent increases on each of those dates. Instead, workers will get a 1 percent increase on each date. The rest of the raises will be pushed back to June 1, 2011.


_AFSCME members will be encouraged – but not required – to participate in a voluntary furlough program. As an incentive, workers will be eligible for "paid incentive days." Details of the plan are still being developed, but for every two unpaid furlough days taken by a worker, one paid incentive day can be taken adjacent to a state holiday.


_No additional layoffs until June 30, 2011 beyond those for which layoff notices were already issued and those related to facility closures already announced. Those facilities are the Howe Developmental Center, Thomson Correctional Center, the Ma Houston Adult Transitional Center and the Kankakee MSU. The union retains the right to continue fighting those closures.


About 200 or fewer union workers are affected by layoff notices already issued, but many of them could be moved into other union jobs.


_No additional facility closures will occur until at least June 30, 2011.


Quinn had said as many as 2,600 state employees had to be laid off during the current budget year because of the state's severe financial problems. AFSCME went to court to prevent the layoffs and a judge placed them on hold until the two sides negotiated some grievances related to the layoffs.


Because of the agreement, both sides have agreed to drop the lawsuit.


Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.