Cook County to union: Take unpaid holidays or risk 1,000 plus layoffs
BY LISA DONOVAN email@example.com October 14, 2011 4:36PM
Updated: November 18, 2011 2:38PM
More than 1,000 Cook County employees may lose their jobs next year unless unionized workers agree to unpaid holidays, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s top aides say.
Officials for at least one union, angry the Preckwinkle administration made the pitch on Tuesday and set a response deadline of Friday, are calling the proposal “a non-starter” and a “public relations stunt.”
“We were blind-sided by this memo and, frankly it’s a non-starter for us,” said Anders Lindall of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 31.
Days away from announcing the 2012 budget, Preckwinkle is attempting to close a $315 million gap and is demanding most of the 23,000 workforce take eight unpaid days off, including six county holidays: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The move would save about $30 million. The bulk — more than 18,000 — of county workers are represented by unions.
“Without this action, without this shared sacrifice of unpaid days, there will most certainly be greater than 1,000 layoffs in the budget,” said Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff.
Layoff threats loomed large when Preckwinkle rolled out her 2011 budget and predicted 1,400 jobs would be lost. But after negotiating with the unions, organized labor agreed to 10 days off without pay this year. Plus, 357 county staffers had been laid off by September.
Still, the furlough plan wasn’t perfect. Time off was difficult to track, and two county commissioners who had initially supported the unpaid time off backed out.
Lindall confirmed that Local 31 leaders received a letter from the Preckwinkle administration Tuesday, formally asking the 5,000 members to agree to the eight unpaid days next year, including six county holidays.
He said union officials were insulted by other possible workplace “take-backs,” including unpaid lunch and other breaks, limiting vacation carryover and decreasing allotted sick time, the latter a big issue after a recent study showed that county workers take about one sick day off a month.
“The men and women who do the real work of county government — and the county residents who rely on its health care and its justice system — should not be endlessly expected to swallow pay cuts and service reductions,” Lindall said in an emailed statement.
Summers said those likely would be discussion points raised next year.