State workers: Furloughs are unfair

IDOT manager says non-union employees bearing brunt of plan

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mike Bull, a supervisor at the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the 9.2 percent pay cut isn’t the only pain he feels from Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to double the amount of furlough days for non-union state workers this year.

“I, as manager, can’t complete all the duties that my position needs to because my staff is a third of what it was 12 years ago. So I’m doing jobs that used to be done by others,” he said.

“So by now forcing me to take over a month of work days off, I will not be able to complete as much work as I did last year… Service to the taxpayers will undoubtedly be affected.”

Last week, Quinn ordered some 2,700 non-union state workers under his control to take 24 unpaid days off in the fiscal year that began July 1, twice what was required last year. He also has asked that unionized state workers take more furlough days, but their bargaining units have to agree.

The announcement came just weeks after it was revealed Quinn awarded raises of 20 percent and more to some staffers in his office. He said those staffers had new titles and expanded duties.

Employees affected by the furloughs, as well as their family members and friends, say the plan is not only unfair, but will hurt morale and productivity and likely negatively affect the local economy.

“Times are tough for many, and I’m thankful for the job I have and will do it to the best of my ability, but it’s hard to be motivated to give 110 percent under these conditions,” Bull said.

“The recent pay raises to his staff just added salt to the wound and, in public opinion, has lumped all of us non-union employees in with them.”
Furlough days ‘a joke’

Jan Ruby of Springfield, a former state worker whose wife is nearly a 25-year veteran with her state department, said he is outraged by the increased burden put on non-union, merit compensation employees. Merit comp employees mostly work in management and policy-making positions.

“I will not sit back and watch this governor, and all of the other elected officials, try to fix their reckless spending on the backs of the hard-working state employees, especially the merit compensation employees who have absolutely no protection from these irresponsible officials,” he said.

“The furlough days are a joke because the small amount they save does no good to fix (lawmakers’) wasteful spending. The vast majority of state employees are now in the union, so they do not have to take furlough days.”

He also said eliminating the equivalent of one month’s pay from employees’ salaries, and thus hurting their pensions, is going to have a huge impact.

Bull, who’s been at IDOT since 1985 and worked his way up to merit compensation supervisor positions, agreed.
“We’re not going to take any vacations this year, we’re not going to go out to eat as much,” he said. “There’s no fat left, not that there was any fat before.”

In the last eight years, Bull said he received only two small pay raises and a $200 stipend as he put his twin boys through high school and college. He said it was tough watching unionized employees continue to get pay increases.

“I’m not saying I should or even do need a raise. But if raises are given to all the (union) represented people and they don’t have to take furlough days, that’s not right,” he said. “I’ve gone so many years without, that I’m just to the point of no more. This is our livelihood.”

No impact on budget?
Here’s how some other local residents weighed in via e-mail when asked about the increase in furlough days for non-union state employees:
* Lois Neal of Springfield: “Many of these employees have given over 30 years service to state government and contrary to popular belief, they are very dedicated and committed to their work. These employees are not ‘political hires,’ but rather have earned their positions through years of dedicated state service. … Expecting merit compensation employees to sacrifice so much while the remaining 96 percent of state employees are sacrificing little, if anything, is not going to make an impact in decreasing state spending and balancing the budget, but it will have a drastic impact on individual families in the state.”
* Matt Maddox of Springfield: “In your July 18, 2010, article about the new furlough days, Governor Quinn is asked if he is worried about people leaving state government. He says no and explains, ‘I think we have a lot of committed people in state government. They’re committed to the mission.’ Apparently, he does not expect that same selfless commitment from his staff. When Governor Quinn took office I had hopes that hypocrisy from our state’s leaders would stop. I was wrong. Et tu, Quinte?”