Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Arbitrator orders halt to layoffs and issues broad make whole remedy

Arbitrator Edwin Benn has issued a decision ordering the State of Illinois to cancel pending layoffs and facility closings and to reinstate and make whole any employee laid off in what the arbitrator determined to be a violation of a cost concession agreement.  That agreement had been entered into between the State of Illinois and AFSCME Council 31, and provided, in return for concessions from the Union, “there shall be no temporary or indeterminate layoffs through the end of FY2012… nor shall the state close any facilities…”
Notwithstanding the language of the agreement, the state announced the layoff of over 1,600 employees represented by the union and the closing of seven mental health and correctional facilities.
The state did not dispute that the layoffs and closings were contrary to the language of the agreement, but argued that the Illinois Public Relations Act permitted its noncompliance with the agreement. The state also maintained that the state’s constitution supported its actions.
Rejecting both of these positions, Arbitrator noted he was bound by the undisputed language of the agreement, and that any statutory or constitutional arguments were for a court to address. The arbitrator’s award prohibited the layoff of employees represented by the union through June 30, 2010, and ordered the state to reinstate and make whole any employee laid off before that date.  
The arbitrator further held:

[I]n the event State goes forward with the  announced layoffs and facility closures which have been found by me to be in clear violation of the Cost Savings Agreements …and in the event those adversely impacted employees lose their homes or cars or are forced to move from their residences as a result of the State’s clear violation of the Cost Savings Agreements which places the employees in a position of being unable to make timely payments on those items or should those employees suffer any other related losses, then as part of the make whole remedy, those employees shall be compensated by  the State for those losses in addition to lost backpay and benefits.

A copy of Arbitrator Benn’s award can be found here.

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