Regents vote to deny request

By Joe Bush and Lisa Daigle

SPRINGFIELD _The Board of Regents Thursday voted 6-3 to deny the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to speak at its meeting in Springfield.

The Regents had predicted such an outcome last week because AFSCME’s speaking request was not received before the required 10 days prior to the meeting and such an address would be unusual during negotiations.

“The board wanted to avoid setting a precedent by getting involved with an issue at the administrative level,” NIU Student Regent Bob Tisch said.

The board’s position mirrors NIU President John La Tourette’s wish to leave the negotiations to NIU’s negotiating team.

The Regents govern NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University at Springfield.

In lieu of addressing the board, the union circulated a typed statement outlining its negotiating problems with NIU and the Regents.

Part of the statement read, “For a number of years we have been pointing out the need for equity raises for positions whose salaries lag far behind those for comparable job titles at other state institutions….the university decided to address this issue for non-union employees, but to pretend the problem does not exist for unionized employees.”

The increment raises are given to employees whose salaries fall below a statewide average based on a study used by NIU. The union has based its arguments on a different average and claims NIU will not provide the study for union review.

“Furthermore, the data upon which the ‘study’ was based have been destroyed,” the circulated statement alleged. “In other words, a mere few months after making determinations regarding large raises for hundreds of employees, the university is unable to present any record of how these determinations were made.

“Either the university is lying or it demonstrates an incredible degree of fiscal irresponsibility,” the statement said.

AFSCME official Larry Henry said last week the two sides are not far apart on an across-the-board salary hike, but an NIU official said earlier the opposing sides’ numbers are “apples and oranges” regarding the increment raises.

Monday, AFSCME hit NIU with an Unfair Labor Practices charge.

“The university’s representatives have consistently maintained that they lack the authority to bargain over issues of extreme importance to our membership,” Henry said.

Robert Perkovich, director of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, said when a charge is filed, an IELRB agent will investigate and determine if there is sufficient evidence for a hearing. If there is not, the charge will be dismissed.

If the opposite is true, a hearing will be held and the decision of the hearing officer can be appealed. Perkovich said if the charge is upheld, “our (IELRB) authority is limited to restoring the status quo”—returning the situation to its form before the offenses occurred.