Imagine a football game where the referees threw flags and called out penalties, but never actually marked off the yardage.
That’s exactly how the “Affirmative Attendance Policy” within the previous American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees works: a state worker can blow off work at least 10 times with nothing worse than a verbal or written reprimand. And the process resets – with all the old reprimands and notices of ineffective suspensions removed his file – if the employee goes two years without a new violation.
The attendance rules practically invite abuse and ought to be rewritten in the next contract between the state and AFSCME. But because both the contract and the negotiations that gave birth to it remain hidden from public view, we don’t know what the attendance rules look like. This is just one of many reasons why collective bargaining needs to be more transparent.
Under the “Affirmative Attendance Policy,” there was a schedule of penalties for unauthorized absences. Penalties started with verbal “counseling” or reprimands, followed by written reprimands. On the fifth unauthorized absence employees were scheduled to receive a one-day unpaid suspension. These suspensions got longer and longer until the 11th violation, where the employee was supposed to sit for 20 days without work. Employees were terminated after 12 violations.
But after all of that came this:
Under this Affirmative Attendance Agreement, except for the last offense before discharge, no employee will serve any suspension time. Employees will be given the usual notice of a suspension but will be expected to report to work and lose no wages. An employee will only serve five (5) days of actual suspension time for the last offense prior to discharge.
This negated almost all the suspensions.
The system was ridiculously easy to game: as long as you weren’t up for a promotion anytime soon or had some other reason to worry about what was in your personnel file, you could blow off work at least 10 times. You would want to call and give a lame excuse – “no-call-no-shows” counted double – but then you could count on the written reprimands and notices to help you figure out if the boss was onto you and keep track of your count once they did catch on.
This was a crazy policy. And as of right now it is impossible to know whether it will be carried over into the new contract.
Fortunately state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, has two bills in the General Assembly that would make it easier to find out about this and all the other crazy things that might show up in a union contract.
Under House Bill 2689 the state would be required to post the terms of a new contract online, and we could all check to see if the attendance rules have been changed.
And under House Bill 182 the public would be able to sit in on bargaining sessions, so we would know everything that’s been bargained up front.
The public has been kept in the dark about union contracts for way too long. Government unions have taken advantage of that, and the result is things like this: 10 days to skip work. Opening up the bargaining process would mean that the taxpayers would know what is in these contracts, including whether or not employees are expected to show up.
Paul Kersey is Director of Labor Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute