Last November negotiations started between the city and union leaders yet a deal has not been reached. About 1,200 people work for the City of Rockford. Unlike many contract negotiations wages aren't the issue. It's actually paying for insurance. Right now the city employees have no co-pay or deductibles. Workers say they don't have a problem paying but say the city's numbers are way too high.
AFSCME represents about 400 city workers. The union has stated that they wouldn't mind paying 11% of the premium but say the city has another number in mind. AFSCME 1058 President Greg Cassaro says, "The city wants us to pay a 20% premium was basically 240% increase in premiums. They wanted $1,500 deductible. They have not backed off the original proposal."
Workers outside were chanting, “Come of Larry negotiate.” Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey says he's listening. But they also have a job to be fiscally responsible and earn the public's trust. Mayor Morrissey states, "We know that the average citizen isn't getting paid as much as the average Rockford employee. We have to be sympathetic because they are paying more than we are."
AFSCME does not have arbitration power but they do have the power to strike. So far the "s" word isn't an option. Members of AFL-CIO Local 413 representing Rockford firefighters also have concerns with insurance. The union has been dealing with a federal mediator. Local 413 President EJ Dilonardo tells 23 News, "We want their standard of living to be better but not decrease." Mayor Morrissey came back to say, “Have they also told you that we've offered higher costs of living adjustments. It's the best that anyone has every offered. It's an effort to ease it in to cover this."
Mayor Morrissey requested that more thought be given to a benefit consulting firm called Rockford Consulting and Brokerage, Inc. The firm would come in and help with enrollment for the next two years. It's the same company the Rockford Public School District used when it changed its insurance policy. Most unions have a negotiating date with the city next week. The issue of the benefit consulting firm will head back to the Finance Committee.