Illinois Teamster Contract Has Concerning New Language

The Teamsters Illinois employment contract has been released, and I’ve obtained a copy that outlines the major differences versus the previous contract. Most of it is bad, but I wanted to outline some of the most egregious portions, in my opinion.

First, wages are being frozen and there will instead be an implementation of a merit incentive program (or programs?). Emphasis added to certain portions.

The parties agree to develop and implement a merit incentive program to reward and incentivize high-performing employees, or a group’s/unit’s performance.

Okay, so far it’s not so bad. I mean, frozen wages suck, but hey! A new merit program to reward high-performing employees!

As a part of such efforts, the Employer may create an annual bonus fund for payout to those individuals deemed high performers or for a group’s/unit’s level of performance for the specific group/unit.

Oh. So, there’s really no obligation here on the part of the employer.

Payment from this bonus fund will be based on the satisfaction of performance standards to be developed by the Employer in consultation with the Union. Such compensation either for a group/unit or an individual shall be considered a one-time bonus and will be offered only as a non-pensionable incentive, and that any employee who accepts merit pay compensation does so voluntarily and with the knowledge and on the express condition that the merit pay compensation will not be included in any pension calculations.

And the Union has no say in how it will be developed, if it ever is.

Additionally, as a part of overall efforts to improve efficiency of state operations and align the incentives of the Employer with its employees, the Employer may develop gain sharing programs. Under such programs, employees or departments may propose initiatives that would achieve substantial savings for the State. Upon realization of such savings, the Employer may elect to return a portion of this savings to the employees who participated in the identified initiative.

More “the employer may,” but isn’t required to do anything. Even if savings occur, the employer isn’t required to share with the employees that are responsible.

The Employer will develop specific policies for both of these programs and will give the Union an opportunity to review and comment on such policies prior to their implementation.

Again, a focus on the fact that if the employer DOES create these policies to implement, the Union at least gets to comment on it. How nice of them to allow that.

I have specific issues with this, mostly in that it’s difficult to measure many of the jobs in state employment by productivity or excellence. Some people have lighter or slightly different workloads than others in their unit or division. This policy just screams “we’re going to reward the ones we like!”

The next portion I wanted to note is based on subcontracting, or privatization. In general, privatization is very hit and miss when done in state government. There are countless examples you can find where it doesn’t work (the Lottery in Illinois, prisons, or just about any instance of subcontracting IT work), and only a few instances where it truly does make a difference. Even then, it’s usually saving money at the expense of quality service and employee wages and benefits.

Whenever the Employer decides to contract out work, the Employer may offer the Union the opportunity to designate up to four (4) employees to form a labor-management team with a comparable number of managers and/or supervisors. Except where prohibited by the Procurement Code, the labor-management team can review the technical requirements of the solicitation and request for services, prepare a bid or proposal, and, before the designated bidding deadline, submit the labor-management team’s bid or proposal to be considered by the service evaluation team, according to the Procurement Code. If the labor-management team’s bid or proposal meets all technical requirements of the solicitation and is less costly than all other bidders, then the Employer agrees it will not contract the services and the provisions of the labor- management team’s bid or proposal will be implemented.

Here’s the big one, to me. “Whenever the Employer decides to contract out work” says to me that they have free reign to do whatever they want, as far as privatization goes. Here we have another “the Employer may,” so even the rest of this about a joint labor/management team is only subjective.

If the employer does decide to allow that labor/management team, I read the rest of this as employees being allowed to bid on their own jobs. That’s kind of messed up, isn’t it?

And finally, for any of you that are involved in state employment and breathing a sigh of relief that this stuff isn’t in your contract, think again. This is what has been proposed for all state employees.

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