Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
Richard J. Cadagin, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiffs appeal from an order of the circuit court of Sangamon County which dismissed their complaint, holding that it lacked jurisdiction.
The controversy centers about a reduction in health benefits provided by the State. Plaintiffs are the collective bargaining agents for certain groups of employees of the State and the defendant is the Director of Personnel of the State. As such the defendant is responsible for the administration of the State Employees Group Insurance Act of 1971. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 127, par. 521 et seq.) The complaint alleged that the defendant unilaterally and without negotiations with the plaintiffs reduced health and insurance benefits effective July 1, 1981. It was originally filed in Cook County, but on motion of the defendant venue was transferred to Sangamon County.
The complaint sought a declaration of plaintiffs' rights and injunctive relief commanding the defendant to restore benefits to the level maintained prior to July 1, 1981. The suit was filed in October 1981 and in April 1982 plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on the basis that the defendant had not responded to it. The defendant then responded by filing a motion to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 2-615) alleging legal insufficiency of the complaint by reason of sovereign immunity (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 127, par. 801). The trial court ordered the parties to proceed on plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.
The defendant then filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion. As exhibits to it, the collective bargaining agreements with the plaintiffs were submitted, and each of these contained comprehensive four-step grievance procedures leading to binding arbitration. Also attached was the affidavit of Peter Vallone, the State's chief labor negotiator, in which he stated that none of the plaintiffs had filed grievances regarding insurance benefits. The defendant also maintained in the memorandum that the collective bargaining agreements did not specify what health and life insurance benefits union employees were to receive and that such benefits need not be, and were not, the subject of collective bargaining or negotiation by the State. Vallone's affidavit stated that Executive Order No. 6, signed by Governor Walker in 1973, provided that State insurance benefits were not to be the subject of collective bargaining, and that such benefits had never been the subject of negotiations.
The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment. A controversy then arose over the written order to be entered. Plaintiffs submitted an order which provided in pertinent part:
"1. The contract issues raised in this cause are hereby resolved to arbitration before an arbitrator to be selected by the parties; and
2. This Court retains jurisdiction for the purpose of resolving any procedural or other questions that may arise in connection with said arbitration."
The defendant objected to the order, primarily on the basis that the question of health insurance benefits was not subject to arbitration, and stated further in his memorandum in opposition to plaintiffs' order:
"It is explicitly conceded in each contract that the question of the arbitrability of any issue is for the arbitrator to decide. Thus, if the Plaintiffs filed a grievance, the first question would be whether or not the grievance was permissible under the collective bargaining agreement."
The defendant then submitted his own order which provided in pertinent part:
"The COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
1. The Defendant contends that the Plaintiffs may not bring this action because the contracts upon which the Plaintiffs' claims are ...