Archive for October 19th, 2022

North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from

North Riverside trustees upended a nearly 40-year operational policy on Oct. 17, voting to abandon its practice of outsourcing paramedic services to a private company in favor of staffing its fire department with union firefighter/paramedics. The move coincided with trustees voting unanimously to approve a new five-year contract for firefighters and lieutenants who are members of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714, retroactive to May 1, 2021. Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) has provided contract paramedic services to North Riverside since 1984. The village board most recently renewed its contract with the firm for five years in 2019.

The deal appears to mark the end of what has been a contentious relationship between union firefighters and village administration going back more than 15 years, and it represents a complete rejection of a bid to privatize the entire department, including firefighting services, which the village began in 2014 and ended after a fruitless court battle in 2018.

In 2019, the mayor along with a trustee broke ranks with their party’s longstanding policy of simply rejecting the thought of union firefighters, saying they were open to bringing paramedics in-house if it made financial sense.

What pushed the village board to accept the union’s proposal to bring paramedics in-house was a request by PSI to renegotiate its contract with the village due to financial pressures the company has faced in order to staff its needs. In the past couple of years, it has been a challenge for PSI to fully meet its commitment to provide North Riverside with six paramedics – two per shift. Paramedics have been known to double up on shifts to keep the ambulance in service and their ranks bolstered by fill-in medics.

In its 2022-23 fiscal year budget, North Riverside earmarked $508,000 for PSI paramedics. However, PSI proposed charging $200,000 more annually. Instead, the village triggered a clause in its contract with PSI and on Oct. 12 sent a letter announcing it was terminating its deal with the firm in 30 days.

Starting Nov. 12, PSI’s paramedics will be out and the village will begin using part-time union firefighter/paramedics from other municipalities to staff its ambulance as the village begins to hire six more firefighter/paramedics to bring staffing up to five per shift from the current three.

Short staffing has led to exorbitant overtime costs in recent years. In 2019-20, fire department overtime was nearly $850,000. In the past two years overtime costs topped $550,000 each year.

The new arrangement will eventually be able to keep a lid on overtime, and the new contract includes an “overtime containment mechanism” capping the number of shifts where two firefighters can be off at the same time. It also limits when higher-paid lieutenants can fill in for firefighter/paramedics. Included in the new contract are base pay raises of 2.5 percent in the first year and 2.75 percent for the final four years. Employee health insurance contributions will gradually rise from 15 percent in the first year to 19 percent by the end of the contract, which expires April 30, 2026.

thanks Rob

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