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August 4, 1995



The Honorable Justice T. O'brien delivered the opinion of the court: Gordon And McNULTY, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'brien

JUSTICE T. O'BRIEN delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), appeals from a decision and order of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board (Board). The Board ruled that respondent, Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), did not violate section 10(a)(4) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act) when it failed to engage in collective bargaining with AFSCME. (5 ILCS 315/10 (a)(4) (West 1992).) We affirm.

At issue in this case is whether the CMS, vis-a-vis the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA), committed an unfair labor practice in refusing to meet with AFSCME in connection with a reduction in force (RIF) at IDPA. The RIF, which occurred as a result of a decrease in state funding for fiscal year 1993, affected certain public employees represented by AFSCME.

On February 24, 1992, Max Liberles, President of AFSCME Local 2000, sent a letter on behalf of the union to Philip Bradley, Director of IDPA, requesting a briefing on the department's fiscal 1993 budget. The letter stated in pertinent part:

"I am writing you regarding two major issues facing our union and to request a meeting with you as soon as possible.

First, we would like a budget briefing on the Department's FY'93 budget. We want to know about staffing plans as they affect the approximately 7,500 employees we represent as well as programmatic changes.

Based upon the rumors circulating, we may have some serious differences, which would put us in an adverse and confrontational position internally as well as externally for the first time in years."

Bradley responded that a meeting on the department's budget would be premature at that time in light of the fact that IDPA had not yet fully determined how the budget would affect its operations. He noted that several options were still under consideration in order to "provide the highest levels of services and benefits possible while remaining cognizant of the fact that the State faces a tough budget." Bradley did indicate, however, that the proposed budget could impact employees represented by AFSCME.

In a subsequent correspondence, IDPA informed AFSCME that a briefing on the department's budget would be held in Springfield, Illinois on April 6, 1992, one day prior to the submission of the State's budget to the Illinois General Assembly. *fn1 AFSCME originally agreed to the meeting, but was later informed that the meeting had to be postponed until April 7, 1992. Due to a conflict in schedules, AFSCME personnel could not attend the April 7, 1992 meeting. Liberles, therefore, advised IDPA that AFSCME would review the department's budget after the State's budget was submitted to the General Assembly.

On April 7, 1992, the governor submitted the State's budget as expected. On that same day, Bradley sent a letter to all IDPA employees announcing potential layoffs. Bradley explained that the layoffs were necessary because of a 0.6% decrease in the department's budget from the prior year. In particular, Bradley disclosed the possible elimination of 759 bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit positions as well as the layoff of 80 individuals. Many of the layoffs were to occur in IDPA's welfare-to-work and transitional assistance programs.

The parties then scheduled another meeting on the department's budget for April 17, 1992. On the day before the meeting, however, Liberles telephoned James Berger, IDPA's Administrator of Personnel Management and Labor Relations, and told him that AFSCME intended to file an unfair labor charge with the Illinois State Labor Relations Board. Berger voiced his disapproval of the filing, but added as he ended the conversation that he hoped such an action could be avoided. Berger immediately called Liberles back and inquired as to the nature AFSCME's charge. Liberles informed him the charge related to IDPA's failure to discuss the proposed layoffs. When Berger asked Liberles to be more specific, Liberles refused. Berger then cancelled the parties' scheduled meeting.

AFSCME proceeded to file its first unfair labor charge (S-CA-92-153) on April 17, 1992. Ten days later, AFSCME filed a second charge (S-CA-92-161) on the basis that IDPA committed an unfair labor practice when Berger cancelled the meeting of April 17, 1992 in retaliation for the filing of the first charge. *fn2

On June 8, 1992, AFSCME and IDPA finally met to discuss the status of the department's proposed budget. The budget was, at that time, still under consideration before the General Assembly. Although the parties reviewed the possibility of additional layoffs, the purpose of the meeting was not to undertake collective bargaining. Rather, IDPA only intended to provide AFSCME with information about the budget and to solicit AFSCME's assistance in certain lobbying efforts.

In any event, the Director of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board investigated AFSCME's charges against IDPA in accordance with section 11(a) of the Act and thereafter issued a Complaint for Hearing. (5 ILCS 315/11(a) (West 1992).) At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer found, inter alia, that IDPA's decision to layoff employees was a mandatory subject of bargaining. He concluded, however, that AFSCME had waived ...

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