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124 Illinois prison nurses will be out of a job come June

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) — More than 100 nurses at Illinois prisons have received layoff notices telling them their jobs are being privatized.

The Associated Press obtained a letter Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration sent to Alice Johnson, executive director for the Illinois Nurses Association. It says the state will hire contract nurses and 124 unionized nurses will be laid off June 15, 2017.

Out of the 124 nurses, 11 in LaSalle County, 13 in Lee County and 11 in Rock Island County are included on the list.

Johnson told the AP the layoffs are an attempt to “bully and intimidate” the nurses in retaliation for rejecting a contract agreement last year.

The complaint claims the Governor has gone back on his promise to negotiate a contract in good faith.

Johnson added the move is particularly troublesome because of a nationwide shortage of nurses that forces Illinois prison nurses to sometimes work 80-hour weeks, while open positions go unfilled.

Nicole Wilson, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said privatizing the posts would save $8 million a year and “streamline the delivery of medical services.” Medical care vendor Wexford Health Sources provides the rest of the prison network’s nurses.

A spokeswoman for Rauner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Johnson says the administration has no authority for the action. The union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with state regulators last week. It demands that Rauner keep negotiating with the union.

Nurses stationed at 12 state prisons will be dismissed on June 15, 2017, two days after the contract nurses are hired.

AP contributed to this article.

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