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Labor Judge Says City Acted Properly in 2018 Layoffs

Jeff Smudde \ WCBU

The city of Peoria acted sincerely, if imperfectly, to avoid layoffs to address budget concerns in 2018.

That's the conclusion of Illinois Labor Relations Board administrative law judge Matthew Nagy in a recommended decision issued last week. In 2018, the city implemented waves of mandatory furloughs among non-emergency employees to replenish $1.6 million back into the city's reserves after years of burning through savings in the wake of Caterpillar layoffs and the company's 2017 corporate headquarters relocation.

AFSCME Local 3464 argued those furloughs had a disproportionate impact on employees represented by their union, and sought to open up collective bargaining talks. The union pitched alternative cost savings moves, such as keeping administrative positions vacant or cutting councilmember compensation.

City staff rejected those ideas as either unfeasible because job offers were already on the table for candidates, or illegal in the case of cutting elected officials' compensation mid-term. 

In August 2018, the city issued layoff notices to 12 bargaining unit employees. Three moved into higher-paying positions after applying. Six employees were bumped into other jobs, and three were laid off. 

The union argued the city failed to negotiate in good faith. They also alleged the city increased the reserves target from $1.3 to $1.6 million and failed to provide requested information. 

Nagy backed the city's version of the numbers, and said he believes the city made good-faith attempts to provide information. He also noted the union contractually waived its right to bargain over layoffs in its contract. 

"The totality of the City’s conduct during bargaining, while imperfect, shows that it entered into bargaining with a sincere desire to come to accord on furloughs, as an alternative to layoffs, in order to meet the budget set by its Council," Nagy wrote. "It demonstrated that it was receptive to the Union’s concerns, considered and responded to the Union’s cost-saving and revenue-generating proposals, and attempted to accommodate the Union’s information requests all while operating under the gun to implement staffing adjustments in time to realize savings sufficient to meet the 2018 Budget." 

The union and city have the right to respond or offer exceptions to Nagy's recommended decision and order to the ILRB.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.