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Union files unfair labor charge against state over overtime ban

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The union representing 24,000 home health care workers has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the state for eliminating overtime rules — dubbing it a violation of federal policy and a “bait and switch” that hurts thousands of seniors and people with disabilities.

On May 1, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration eliminated overtime work at time-and-a-half pay for home health care workers. Last week, Rauner called abuse of overtime “a big problem.”

In the midst of stalled contract talks with the union, Rauner has said his administration isn’t trying to drive down wages. He called those claims “misinformation.”

But SEIU Healthcare Illinois says about 9,000 people with disabilities are affected by the rules change. They say Rauner “is attempting to strip wages, training and health insurance from caregivers.

The charges filed Thursday with the Illinois Labor Relations Board claim Rauner’s administration “took this action unilaterally and without bargaining in good faith with the union over the decision and its impact upon the affected employees.”

Hours were reduced and capped, making thousands of employee providers unable to work more than 40 hours a week, “in order to avoid paying them overtime wages,” the complaint says.

The complaint asks for the restoration of work hours before May 1, and for the state to pay for the lost work at an overtime rate of pay.

“In only a few days, we have found that hundreds of people with disabilities who rely on care for their everyday needs have been placed in harm’s way by a policy that has nothing to do with saving taxpayer dollars OR preventing fraud, the governor’s all-of-a-sudden rationale,” SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President Terri Harkin said in a statement. “Rauner has used the federal policy in a bait-and-switch that will hurt seniors and people with disabilities, using them as pawns to take away wages, training and health insurance from the people who care for them.”

Harkin called the work change “the heartless new Rauner overtime policy.”

In a statement, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the union declined to talk about the overtime issue during contract talks.

“The Department [of Human Services] created this overtime policy to comply with Federal laws following a court case filed by SEIU, and the policy harmonizes the interests of providers, customers, and our taxpayers,” Kelly said. “While we do not have to negotiate with the Union changes in federal law, we offered the Union an opportunity to discuss the overtime issue in the context of the overall contract. The Union declined.”

An SEIU spokesman denied that overtime was discussed.

The labor relation board’s state panel consists of four members appointed by Rauner, although two of them were previously appointed under Democratic governors.

SEIU overtime complaint