Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chicago Librarians in AFSCME 31 Face Contract Discussions in 2007

A mayoral election looms and a federal investigation into City Hall corruption continues, but no matter the outcome on either front, city officials will face serious issues in 2007. At the top of the list are potentially contentious labor negotiations and a decision on whether to lease Midway Airport.

Contracts with unions representing the overwhelming majority of the city's 36,000 employees are set to expire June 30, and City Hall negotiators are expected to try to hold down wage increases, seek work-rule changes to increase productivity and attempt to make workers shoulder more of the increasing costs of health insurance.

If those issues sound familiar, it's because they all were central to particularly long and sometimes acrimonious bargaining that finally ended with new contracts in mid-2006.

It took more than two years of sporadic back-and-forth to hammer out the retroactive agreements covering nearly 32,000 tradesmen, firefighters, office workers and other unionized employees.

"Negotiating with the city is always very difficult," said Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. "I just hope we can get a fair agreement that is good for both sides in a timely fashion. I am hoping we don't have a repeat of the last time around when it took 28 months."

Henry Bayer, executive director of Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called the last negotiations "excruciating." Council 31 represents certain city clerical and technical workers, including librarians and Health Department professionals.

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