Unions Win Furlough Fight Judge Says SIU Acted Illegally in 2011
CARBONDALE, Ill., Aug. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An administrative law judge for the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) has found that the administration for Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU) acted illegally during a 2011 contract dispute and is directing the university to return lost salary to more than 1,500 current and former employees whose pay was illegally cut. The cost to the university is estimated at $1.9 million.
In her ruling, Judge Colleen Harvey found that the former administration at SIU illegally pushed "to the point of impasse" three unions affiliated with the Illinois Education Association: the Association of Civil-service Employees (ACsE), the SIU Faculty Association (FA) and the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association (NTTFA). According to Harvey, the university took the action "…simply so it could impose its offer on the bargaining unit(s)."
Harvey wrote that the conduct of the SIU administration "demonstrated that it lacked an open mind and a sincere desire to reach agreement," ruling that the administration had bargained in bad faith and had engaged in an unfair labor practice during contract negotiations with the unions.
"This decision represents a victory not only for the unions that filed the unfair labor practice charge and the employees they represent, but also for the principles and practice of good faith collective bargaining," said Faculty Association President Rachel Stocking.
"This is compensation that had already been legally negotiated into our contract," said James Wall, president of the NTTFA. "The imposition of four furlough days was the equivalent to a roughly 2 percent salary reduction give-back."
Charges of bad faith bargaining are usually difficult to prove but, in this case, the SIUC administration's attorneys provided internal documents detailing their strategy for the contract dispute. Minutes from internal meetings prove their plan was to force impasse and impose terms as quickly as possible, rather than engaging in honest, straightforward contract bargaining as they claimed they were in many public statements.
This illegal plan was being implemented at the same time the former administration was telling the public and the news media that the IEA unions were preventing an agreement by being obstinate and making wildly unrealistic demands.
The university has been instructed to repay salary that it had illegally withheld over four furlough days in 2011 to affected members of the bargaining units for faculty and civil servants. The university can appeal the ruling, but, under the law, the amount owed the employees will continue grow due to interest costs.
"The fact that this ruling has been issued just as a new SIU administration takes over presents an opportunity for everyone on our campus," Stocking said.
"As our new administrators review the actions of the past four years, they can use this decision to learn from the mistakes of the past, and take a constructive and respectful approach to collective bargaining in the future."
The Association of Civil-service Employees (ACsE), the SIU Faculty Association (FA) and the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association (NTTFA) are local affiliates of the 130,000-member Illinois Education Association (IEA), which is a state affiliate of the National Education Association.
SOURCE Illinois Education Association