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Important Information re Statewide Employee Survey

Dear AFSCME Member:

AFSCME Council 31 has had numerous inquiries regarding a Statewide Employee Engagement Survey that has been sent out to state employees by the Rauner Administration.  In many departments supervisors have directed employees to complete the survey, telling them that they are required to do so.

  • There is considerable confusion about the purpose and procedures associated with this survey.  Here are the facts:
    In response to the Union’s objections, CMS has now informed the Union that employees are not required to complete this survey.  You cannot be disciplined or retaliated against for not filling out this survey.
  • The Administration has stated that the survey is anonymous.  However, it is not clear that the identity of respondents will in fact be protected.
  • The survey requires employees to identify whether they are union members and where they work—raising questions as to whether the survey is actually intended to be anonymous.
  • The survey presents as fact the claim that the state cannot afford pay raises for its employees and tries to push employees to concede that something other than a raise  would suffice as “compensation”.   It is all too likely that  the Administration is seeking to use such information to bolster its position at the bargaining table that employees should be forced to go four years without a pay increase or a step increase.

It is your own decision as to whether or not to complete this survey.   You should not let any supervisor pressure you into responding to it.  Moreover, you should be aware that there is no clear assurance regarding the anonymity of your responses.

Sincerely,
Tom Edstrom
Supervising Counsel
AFSCME Council 31

Setting the Record Straight on Health Care

Dear AFSCME Member:

On Friday CMS sent out a deliberately misleading memo to all employees regarding the state group health insurance plan.  Here are some of the CMS claims—and the actual facts:

·         CMS Letter:  “I can assure you that employee premiums will remain at their current levels from now until June 30, 2016 (Fiscal Year 2016).”

FACT:  For months now, up until December 2, the Rauner Administration has had a proposal on the bargaining table to increase premiums in the current fiscal year.   That proposal was only withdrawn because it is no longer operationally feasible to implement such changes during  this fiscal year.

FACT:  The same extreme Administration proposal—increasing employee premiums by 100%–remains on the bargaining table effective July 1, 2016.

·         CMS Letter:  “….many of our current plans are…so expensive that they will likely be subject to federal penalties …Premiums for these expensive…plans are likely to double after July 1, 2016.

FACT:  The federal “excise tax” on higher-cost health care plans does not even go into effect until 2018, not 2016 as the above sentence implies.

FACT:  Federal requirements impose the tax on employers—they do not in any way require that the associated costs be passed on to employees.

FACT:  It is unlikely that the HMO plans, in which most AFSCME members participate, will be subject to the federal excise tax at all.

FACT:  The Administration has not presented any evidence that the federal excise tax would be anywhere near the equivalent of a 100% premium increase for the state’s other health plans.

FACT:  AFSCME is part of a broad coalition of unions and employers that is lobbying Congress to repeal or postpone the imposition of the excise tax.  The Rauner Administration has failed to participate in this effort.

FACT:   In other words, the Rauner Administration is trying to use the federal excise tax as an phony rationale to push for vastly higher employee costs.

·         CMS Letter:  “…you would have the option to pay the same premium you pay today even after July 1, 2016.”

FACT:  The alternative plans proposed by the Administration would have vastly higher co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.  On average, whatever plan an employee chooses, his or her costs would increase by $3,100 annually effective July 1,2016.

CMS Letter:  “…the State has proposed a cap [at 10%] on any increases to employee premiums for 2018 and 2019.”

FACT:  Under the Administration’s proposal that is currently on the bargaining table, the cap would not go into effect until after the premiums increase by 100% in 2017.

FACT:  A 20% increase over two years would represent a significant additional increase.  For example, employees in the QCHP family plan currently paying premiums of around $5000 annually for their coverage could see their premium costs rise to $12,100 by 2019.

·         CMS Letter:  “…while we would like to continue to offer luxury plans…”

FACT:  In reality, the current state group health plan is in the mid-range among all states.  The proposal that the Administration currently has on the bargaining table would put Illinois dead last among all the states.

You can be assured that the AFSCME Bargaining Committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair contract settlement that recognizes the state’s financial situation while maintaining affordable health care for all state employees.

Sincerely,

Martha Merrill
Director of Research and Employee Benefits
AFSCME Council 31