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Public defenders face pay cuts, shorter workweek

Friday, February 02, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Lauren FitzPatrick Staff writer

Cook County's public defenders were told Thursday they will take a 20 percent pay cut under President Todd Stroger's 2007 budget.
The public defenders union was notified in a letter from Jonathan A. Rothstein, special assistant to Stroger, that as of March 5, their workweek will be cut to four days. Ten more workweeks between then and the end of the year will be cut to three days.
Thirty-six assistant public defenders will be laid off by March 16, according to the letter obtained by the Daily Southtown. Eleven clerical workers also will lose their jobs.
The pay of all affected employees would equal a unilateral 25 percent pay cut for all workers.
It's not yet clear where those cuts will be made and whether the Bridgeview or Markham districts will be affected. No one in those offices could be reached immediately Thursday for comment.
"As you know, Cook County is facing a severe budget crisis," Rothstein wrote.
The union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, called Stroger's actions "a flagrant violation of the county's contract with the union, which states the employer may not unilaterally change pay or work schedules without bargaining."
The union said in a statement it immediately will file grievances and unfair labor practice charges against the county and will demand to move the matter directly to arbitration.
Cook County Public Defender Edwin Burnette warned commissioners Saturday at a budget hearing that the court system will not work if public defenders work four days a week when prosecutors, judges, sheriffs and other courtroom personnel work five days.

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