Shutdown affects county’s union talks
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com October 3, 2013 6:14PM
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:34AM
JOLIET — Will County’s negotiations with its largest employees union were affected Thursday by the federal shutdown because a federal mediator assigned to the case is on furlough.
The county negotiated for five hours with little progress, according to union president Dave Delrose, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028.
While the federal mediator wasn’t on hand for the labor talks, Delrose said that wasn’t the reason for the lack of progress.
“We’re still far apart on wages and health insurance,” Delrose said.
Union members who have gone without raises for the past several years due to the recession say their take-home pay will drop if they have to pay more toward health insurance without a salary increase. But county officials say most union workers get 2.5 percent “step” increase up the pay scale every year, which should count as a raise.
Another negotiation session has been set for Oct. 22. AFSCME members have held three meetings recently to plan for a strike, just in case talks break down.
“It’s really just disappointed we’re not making more progress on this and we want to avoid a strike, but there’s limitations to what the county budget can support,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “It’s a balance between health care and salaries and we feel we’ve given them a very fair contract, more than fair.”
The contract expired Dec. 1 and the two sides have been negotiating for more than year.