Union plans next moves

By Joe Bush

While waiting for the next round of bargaining, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union officials met in DeKalb to update members on wage negotiations with NIU.

The union wants a “catchup” increment raise given to its civil service employee members whose salaries have fallen below a statewide average. A similar raise was given last summer to non-union NIU workers with parallel jobs.

However, the parties have based their negotiations on two different figures. NIU’s salary average is based on a statewide public university employee study. Union officials do not have access to the study and have based their request on a minimum salary range for civil service workers.

AFSCME official Larry Henry said the two sides are not far from agreement on an across-the-board hike, but are distant on the increment raise issue.

NIU officials have said an increment raise is meant only for non-union employees, who on average, got a 9-percent wage increase.

Henry said an AFSCME strike is doubtful because the union’s current contract has a no-strike provision. However, another AFSCME official Mike Neumann, said a strike is “not something we can rule out.”

Union officials said the next steps will be the scheduling of further talks and speaking to the Board of Regents at next week’s meeting in Springfield.

Board Chancellor Roderick Groves and Chairman Carol Burns have said it is unlikely the BOR will hear the union because it would be unusual in the midst of negotiations. Groves said he has not received the union’s speaking request within the required 10 days before a meeting, but the board could bend its rules.

Neumann said union representatives will attend the meeting with the intention of speaking to the Regents.

“We’ll be appealing to the Board of Regents to be treated fairly,” Neumann said. “We can’t roll over and allow our members to be treated this way.”

If the union is not allowed to speak, Henry said “once it’s (board meeting) over, we’ll be talking to the media.”

enry suggested the union had been “talking to the wrong people” when it appealed to NIU’s special Steering Committee. In response to a union letter to the committee, NIU President John La Tourette expressed the school’s wish to let its negotiating team handle matters.

The union insists the money needed for their demands is available. “It wouldn’t cost a fortune to do what we’re asking,” Neumann said. “It would be a drop in the bucket compared to what they’ve already given out.”