Posts Tagged North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department

North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from the rblandmark.com:

Despite an assurance from the North Riverside mayor in October that the village was through trying to privatize firefighting services through the courts, on Nov. 3 the village’s law firm filed a petition asking the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the case.

In the petition, the village’s attorney argues that the Illinois Court of Appeals created significant constitutional issues by ruling that an apparent contract impasse had to be resolved through an Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator.

The ruling, according to the village granted constitutionally prohibited special privileges and gives labor arbitrators power the Illinois General Assembly never intended.

The village continues to claim, as it has throughout the more than 3-year-old court case, that it has the unilateral right to terminate its contractual relationship with union firefighters, whose most recent deal ended April 30, 2014. The village attorney also argues that it has the right to outsource work performed by union members, based on an appellate court ruling concerning a school district that outsourced bus-driving jobs formerly held by union members.

That appellate ruling creates a conflict with the North Riverside ruling, the village argues, which necessitates intervention and clarification by the state’s Supreme Court.

The mayor admitted that it’s unlikely the Supreme Court will accept the case and said he expects the dispute between the village and the firefighters’ union to wind up before an arbitrator, as directed by the appellate court.

“We’ll go full-blown arbitration to dissect the contract and start from scratch,’ the mayor said. “The arbitrator can hopefully meet in the middle ground and come up with something that’s fair to both sides.”

Why petition the Supreme Court at all, and incur additional expenses? The mayor says that the village’s law firm pledged to file the petition without charge.

According to a spokeswoman at the Chicago office of the Supreme Court clerk, the soonest the court may announce a decision on whether to hear the case is the end of January 2018.

The attorney representing North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 said he will file a response to the motion before the Nov. 27 deadline and that the village’s theory of how to interpret the Illinois Labor Relations Act turns decades of accepted law on its head.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the rblandmark.com

North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said the village will drop its pursuit of privatizing firefighting services through the courts after the Illinois Court of Appeals on Sept. 29 upheld a ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board that the village engaged in an unfair labor practice by seeking to unilaterally terminate its contract with union firefighters while that contract was subject to arbitration.

The appeal was effectively North Riverside’s last resort in the courts, which for the past three-plus years have systematically ruled against the village’s contention that it could terminate the union contract because the two sides had reached an impasse.

“It finally closes the door on this experiment to argue that our contract is null and void,” said Chris Kribales, the president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714, which represents the village’s 12 union firefighters. “It finally puts us back on a level field.”

In March, the appellate court had affirmed that the Illinois Labor Relations Board was the proper venue to play out the contract dispute. In 2014, the village had filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to declare the village could unilaterally terminate the union contract. Judge Diane Larsen ruled she didn’t have jurisdiction to make such a ruling.

Now the matter will go before Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator, something North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 had demanded in 2014, shortly after the village had filed its suit in circuit court.

“We’re not going to appeal this,” Hermanek said of the Sept. 29 appellate court ruling. “It’s done. This was the last shoe to drop.”

An arbitrator selected to hear the North Riverside matter put the hearing on hold back in January 2015, because of the pending litigation. Now that the litigation has concluded, the arbitrator will resume his role.

Hermanek was philosophical about the failure of the lawsuit, saying, “You don’t know ’til you try. Now we’ll just move in a different direction.” He is holding out the slim hope that a labor arbitrator might rule that it can terminate its contract because, if it doesn’t, the village would face a devastating financial future.

The appellate court ruling noted that “while the goal of arbitration is to reach an agreement, [the Illinois Labor Relations Act] does not prevent an arbitrator from determining that the circumstances presented justify an award permitting an employer to sever any contractual relationship with the union” and that “the categorical elimination of employment, a [collective bargaining agreement] and every condition thereof falls within the purview of the arbitrator’s decision.”

While it would seem unlikely that an arbitrator would go to such lengths as to allow the village to terminate its union contract, it’s at least possible, the three-judge panel ruled.

The most recent union contract expired on April 30, 2014. Both sides have met during the past year to see if there are areas of common ground as they pursue a new deal. The union wants its staffing levels brought up to pre-2009 numbers, when minimum staffing was set at six firefighters per shift, according to Kribales.

Right now, the department is working three four-firefighter minimum shifts, but only has 11 firefighters to staff them (the 12th firefighter is a day-shift lieutenant). That means even if every shift is fully staffed (and no one takes a day off or calls in sick) the village is paying someone 24 hours of overtime one out of every three shifts, said Kribales.

Hermanek said the village will hire a firefighter to fill a vacancy created by the recent retirement of Firefighter Rick Urbinati. But there’s been no promise to add any additional firefighters after that.

Kribales said hiring just the one firefighter to replace Urbinati, while not enough, will still help.

It’s been an expensive detour for the administration, which announced the lawsuit as a way for the village to ultimately save money by eliminating future union pension obligations. It’s unclear exactly how much the village has spent to have its law firm pursue privatization through the courts and in matters before the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The firefighters union estimates the village has spent more than $1 million, while the village has claimed the court action has cost roughly $100,000.

The Landmark’s analysis of village financial records showed that North Riverside spent more than $800,000 on total legal fees between 2013 and 2016. The privatization effort started in the summer of 2014.

For the three years prior to the 2013-14 fiscal year, the village had never spent more than $76,000 annually for legal services

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from the rblandmark.com:

A 2014 bid to have a Cook County Circuit Court judge declare that the Village of North Riverside had a right to unilaterally terminate its contract with union firefighters fizzled on March 15 when the Illinois Court of Appeals upheld the circuit court’s ruling that it had no jurisdiction over the matter.

In an eight-page ruling handed down by a panel of three appellate court judges, Justice Terrence J. Lavin wrote that the village’s argument that it was merely raising a legal question about its right to end a collectively bargained contract with firefighters was patently disingenuous.

Rather, the appellate court ruled, the circuit court properly dismissed the village’s complaint. As exclusive jurisdiction lies with the [Illinois Labor Relations] Board.

It’s not clear exactly whether or when the matter will end up as the subject of binding arbitration in front of the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

But, North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. told the Landmark in a phone interview that the March 15 decision would not be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and that the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court is now dead.

The village is now pinning its hopes on another case in front of the Illinois Court of Appeals. In July 2016, the Illinois Labor Relations Board voted 4 to 1 in favor of the firefighter union’s unfair labor practice complaint, arguing the village had no right to unilaterally terminate its contract with firefighters.

North Riverside appealed that decision and the matter is pending in the Illinois Court of Appeals. It’s unclear when a ruling will be handed down, but the case has been fully briefed and both sides are simply awaiting a decision.

If that ruling comes down in favor of the firefighters, the union would ask the labor board to set a date for arbitration, which has been on hold since January 2015.

The union demanded arbitration in September 2015, shortly after the village filed its lawsuit in circuit court. The Illinois Labor Relations Board agreed to the demand, and ground rules for the arbitration process were set at a meeting in January 2015. But the arbitrator assigned to the case held the arbitration in abeyance until all matters before the courts were cleared up.

Hermanek said he’d prefer hammering out a new union agreement with firefighters to arbitration.

Hermanek wants to limit the number of union firefighter positions because of the pension obligations that were the primary argument for the 2014 fire privatization bid. The department is short three firefighters, but the situation has led to high overtime costs, with union firefighters filling in whenever a shift is short-staffed.

The mayor would like the union to agree to allow the village to hire paid-on-call or contract firefighters to fill the gaps when shifts are short of personnel in order to reduce the overtime burden. The union reportedly has rejected the proposal.

Chris Kribales, president of North Riverside Firefighters Union 2714, said firefighters would agree to allowing paid-on-call or contract firefighters to fill out shifts in return for replacing the village’s contract paramedic service with part-timers culled from the department’s hiring list.

Kribales said the part-time ambulance staffing model has been employed by the Bensenville Fire Protection District. According to a help wanted ad from that department last November, part-timers’ starting pay is $12.50 per hour.

Despite setback after setback in the courts, Hermanek defended the village’s decision to file the suit seeking termination of the union contract, saying that someone had to take on the unions in order to control pension obligations. During the 2016-17 fiscal year, police and fire pensions account for about 12 percent of the village’s annual operating budget.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

On Sept. 14, the village charged North Riverside Firefighters Local 2714 with surface bargaining and improperly bargaining, saying the union has forced an impasse in negotiations by insisting on the elimination of the village’s private paramedic service provider, Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

“The union has demanded the village terminate its contract with PSI as condition of any agreement,” the village’s complaint states.

The village filed the complaint with the state labor board after the two sides met on Aug. 31 and Sept. 8.

But the union’s attorney waved off the complaint, saying those two meetings weren’t bargaining sessions at all and that the village has not complied with last month’s state labor board’s ruling … that required the village to post notice of the violations, rescind the termination notices, and bargain in good faith. But the village has not posted the notice or rescinded the termination notices, according to the union’s attorney.

Instead, the village has appealed the labor board’s ruling to the Illinois Appellate Court.

There are now two matters involving the two-year old contract dispute between North Riverside and its firefighters before the appellate court. The first is the village’s appeal of a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s ruling that she did not have jurisdiction over the village’s call for unilateral termination of the firefighters’ union contract.

That matter has been in the appellate court’s hands for 11 months. Now the village has appealed the state labor board’s unfair labor practice ruling.

Meanwhile, the North Riverside mayor said that despite the pending court matters, he wants to come to an agreement with firefighters and that the meetings on Aug. 31 and Sept. 8 were part of that effort.

“[The fire union] knew those were serious sessions,” said Hermanek. “We went there fully ready to bargain and get an agreement.”

Yet, correspondence between the two sides in the run up to those negotiating sessions indicate that they were approaching those meetings carefully.

In an Aug. 19 letter to village officials, union President Rick Urbinati requested a meeting with the village’s bargaining team, but made it clear discussions would include implementation of the labor board’s order.

When the two sides met, the village handed the union discussion items related to a new contract, but the village’s attorney made clear that it was not considered a contract offer or proposal.

The mayor called that language a legal formality because of the pending litigation. He also complained that the union wouldn’t budge from its insistence on replacing PSI paramedics with low-cost part-time employees for a time while firefighters are trained to be paramedics.

The union contract and PSI’s contract with the village are separate deals, the mayor said. He pointed to a new, unprecedented five-year contract with police officers and a new deal with police dispatchers as examples of the village’s interest in negotiating union contracts.

Berry acknowledged that the firefighters’ union was seeking termination of the PSI contract, “but as a part of a negotiated settlement.”

The union wasn’t about to let go of its wish to terminate PSI’s contract, Berry said, when the village still won’t rescind termination notices it has issued to union firefighters.

“They are still proposing to replace us.”

thanks Dan

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North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

The Illinois Labor Relations Board last month ruled that the village had not engaged in surface bargaining with union firefighters before declaring an impasse, filing a lawsuit arguing the village had the right to void its union contract and issuing termination letters to all union firefighters in late 2014.

However, the labor board in a 4 to 1 vote on July 12 also ruled that the village had no right to unilaterally terminate its collectively bargained contract with firefighters.

“For us to decide the contract be terminated … brings us dangerously close to modifying the [Illinois Public Labor Relations Act], and that’s not our role,” said John Hartnett, chairman of the Illinois Labor Relations Board during the July 12 hearing in Springfield. “Our role is to interpret the act.”

Still, it was clear that there was some sympathy for the village’s position that it was acting as a result of precarious financial circumstances.

“When the employer is faced with a critical financial challenge, the village asks how it truly terminates a contract and a bargaining relationship that involved protected service employees so as to be able to pursue more cost-effective options for delivery of such services,” said Kathryn Zeldon-Nelson, attorney for the labor board.

Was the only alternative, Zeldon-Nelson wondered going through arbitration and “trusting the interest arbitrator to take cognizance of [the village’s] financial constraints”?

Just what it all means in terms of firefighters and the village coming to terms on a new contract is unclear, because not all of the loose ends remaining from the initial push to privatize firefighting services in the summer of 2014 have been tied up.

Both sides still await word from the Illinois Court of Appeals regarding Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen’s October 2015 ruling that she didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.

Also pending is contract arbitration that was demanded by the union and held in abeyance by the arbitrator until the circuit court case was disposed.

J. Dale Berry, the attorney for North Riverside Firefighters Local 2714, said he didn’t expect the appellate court to rule “for several months.”

Hermanek called the labor board’s decision that the village had not engaged in surface bargaining a major victory for the village.

Berry, however, said the labor board upheld the crux of the union’s argument – that the village could not unilaterally terminate the union contract or change the employment status of the firefighters.

“If he thinks that’s a major victory for the village, I’ll take the loss then,” Berry said.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

On the heels of a fiscal year in which every single fund, from general operation to water to waste hauling ended in the black, North Riverside’s finance director on May 24 said the village is in its best financial position since prior to the economic crash of 2008.

Although the figures are not yet audited, revenues for the second straight fiscal year reportedly outpaced expenditures in the village’s general operating fund, which pays for day-to-day expenses such as salaries and benefits, including pension contributions, by nearly $200,000.

And for the second straight year, North Riverside’s water enterprise fund, which for two decades operated at a loss because the village’s general fund subsidized costs it now passes along to customers, also ended in the black by about $430,000.

During the second of two meetings to discuss the proposed 2016-17 fiscal year budget, Scarpiniti on May 24 also said the village will be in a stronger position to argue its case for an improved bond rating when village officials meet with the Moody’s rating service later this month.

Should the village’s bond rating improve, officials would be poised in the next six to eight months to issue between $2.2 million and $2.5 million in alternate revenue bonds to fund a major street improvement campaign along with a handful of other capital expenditures identified in the 2016-17 budget.

The debt service on the alternate revenue bonds would be funded by earmarking roughly $250,000 in revenue the village receives from its places of eating and drinking tax. The village will raise that tax to a full 2 percent from the present 1 percent in 2016-17, which should result in an additional $460,000 annually.

Another major purchase coming in 2016-17 is a new aerial ladder truck for the fire department, which is being financed via an installment contract with Pierce Manufacturing, at a cost to the village $1.16 million.

It replaces a 1997 Pierce aerial that has been out of service with an inoperable main ladder since 2014. The fire department will take delivery of the new truck sometime in July, according to Fire Chief Brian Basek, and will attempt to find a buyer for its old truck.

 The numbers in the 2016-17 budget also indicate that the village’s two-year campaign to privatize its fire department may be coming to an end.

While the village is still pinning its hopes on a reversal of a circuit court decision by the Illinois Appellate Court and favorable responses to village protests of a proposed unfair labor practice ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, the budget indicates North Riverside’s investment in those fights is over.

The budget includes no money allocated for privatization in the new fiscal year and a much lower budget figure for fighting union grievances, most of which have come from firefighters in the past three years.

After spending $47,721 in legal fees regarding fire department issues in 2013-14, North Riverside spent $265,762 in 2014-15 and an estimated $252,475 in 2015-16.

The legal services budget for the fire department in the fiscal year ending April 30, 2017 is estimated at $100,000, a majority of that for contract negotiations and grievance proceedings. The mayor and firefighters have been meeting informally for several months. On May 24, Hermanek said he’d agree to a contract with the union and hire three more firefighters if the union would agree to reduce the number of firefighters allowed to call off during a single shift.

Right now, two people are allowed to call off during a shift, a policy that Hermanek said is responsible for skyrocketing overtime costs that have prevented the village from hiring more employees.

The overtime problem would be solved if the union would reduce the number of people asking for a shift off from two to one, however the union won’t budge, Hermanek said.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

An administrative law judge for the Illinois Labor Relations Board has ordered the village of North Riverside to rescind termination notices issued to firefighters in October 2014 and ordered it back to the bargaining table after rejecting the village’s claim that it had the right to unilaterally terminate the union contract.

Anna Hamburg-Gal, in a recommended decision and order dated March 25, ruled that the village engaged in unfair labor practices related to their plan to privatize firefighting services and outsource them to Paramedic Services of Illinois, which has provided paramedic services for the village for decades.

Specifically, according to Hamburg-Gal, the village engaged in what is known as “surface” bargaining when it met with the union during the late summer and early fall of 2014 to negotiate a new contract with firefighters.

The most recent union contract expired April 30, 2014, but the two sides did not sit down at the bargaining table until June 24, 2014. Months prior to that, however, the village had been planning to privatize the fire department.

In early January 2014, according to the recommended decision and order, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. met with Village Attorney Burt Odelson to discuss whether privatization was feasible.

By sometime in February 2014, Hermanek had met with officials from PSI to see if the company could provide firefighting services and to tell them that the village wouldn’t seek competitive bids, the decision states.

In June of that year, PSI presented the village with an estimate that predicted the firm could provide firefighting services at savings of about $1 million compared to what the village was paying its union firefighters. Even before sitting down with the union at the bargaining table, the village published a letter to residents pitching privatization as an alternative.

Hamburg-Gal ruled that the village’s quick rejection of union proposals to consolidate firefighting services into a fire protection district or to form a private company that would serve to provide qualified firefighters to the village “indicate a rush to reach impasse rather than meaningful consideration of the union’s proposals.”

Arguments that the village didn’t have time to go through a referendum petition process for consolidation, stated Hamburg-Gal, were undercut by a village proposal to offer firefighters an 11-year contract that would gradually phase out union firefighters and replace them with PSI employees.

North Riverside “was willing to wait 11 years required to reap the full cost-savings of its own privatization plan,” Hamburg-Gal wrote. “Surely, a modicum of investigation into the union’s novel cost-savings proposal would not have taken so long.”

The recommended decision and order also states that the village improperly changed the terms and conditions of employment while interest arbitration was pending and “interfered, restrained and coerced employees” when the village issued termination notices shortly after the union invoked interest arbitration proceedings.

Hamburg-Gal rejected the village’s contention that it had the right to unilaterally terminate its contract with firefighters, who are considered “protective service employees” and are not allowed to strike.

Rather, she wrote, the law’s “specific prohibition against unilateral changes to protective service unit employees’ terms and conditions of employment applies where the employees at issue are firefighters.”

J. Dale Berry, the attorney representing the firefighters’ union said the village’s interpretation of the law was “ridiculous” and the recommended decision highlighted that.

“The cornerstone of their strategy was the [interpretation] of [that part of the law], and she rejected it as being without merit,” Berry said.

In response to the recommended decision and order, Hermanek told the Landmark that the absence of any sanctions, such as awarding the union its demand for the village to pay its attorneys’ fees, was a win for the village.

Hermanek and union leaders have met informally several times since late 2015, and the mayor said he hopes both sides can still reach an agreement beneficial to both sides.

“Without sanctioning us, she’s telling us to bargain with them,” Hermanek said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m trying to get a long-term contract done.”

The village and the union are allowed to file exceptions to the administrative law judge’s recommended decision and order within 30 days.

Hermanek also said, for now, the village will not rescind its termination letters to firefighters, since it still is waiting on a ruling from the Illinois Court of Appeals.

“We’re not going to remove the termination notices, but we will continue to bargain,” Hermanek said.

North Riverside filed a lawsuit in circuit court in October 2014 after declaring it had reached an impasse in negotiations with the fire union.

The village at the time filed a motion asking Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen to rule on its claim that it had the authority to unilaterally terminate the union contract. Larsen ruled that she didn’t have jurisdiction because the village had not exhausted all avenues for remedies, which included arbitration by the ILRB.

Hermanek contended that Larsen made her ruling believing the village to be right, legally speaking, but didn’t wish to overturn decades of labor law precedent.

The appellate court could decide to send the matter back to Larsen or it could make a ruling on its own that the village has the right to terminate the union contract, though that would be unlikely, according to Berry.

“The chances of that are, like, zero,” he said.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from theRBLandmark.com:

Despite the fact that both sides appear to remain far apart and a resolution is still beyond the horizon, North Riverside’s mayor and the leadership of the North Riverside Firefighters’ Union have been meeting informally over the past couple of months, trying to find something that resembles common ground.

Mayor Hubert Hermanek said last week that he has met with the union’s president, Rick Urbinati, eight times in recent months. It’s been 18 months since Hermanek rolled out a plan to privatize the village’s fire protection services, where union firefighters would be phased out and replaced with paramedic/firefighters supplied by Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

Hermanek had hoped to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in mounting pension obligations with the move. The deal also would have eliminated a source of aggravation for Hermanek and the majority VIP Party, who the firefighters’ union publicly opposed in the 2013 and 2015 elections. The firefighters’ union has also filed numerous grievances against the village over the years.

In mid-December, Hermanek and North Riverside Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti were called to testify in front of an Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator as part of an unfair labor practice complaint lodged by the union against the village related to the privatization plan. Hermanek, who was grilled by attorneys for about three hours, characterized the four-day hearing as “combative and unpleasant.”

It’s unclear when the arbitrator will issue a recommended solution to the complaint, which alleged that the village did not and had no plans to negotiate a new union contract in good faith.

In the meantime, the village is waiting to hear from the Illinois Court of Appeals, which is considering an appeal filed by the village in the wake of a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s ruling in October that she didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on North Riverside’s lawsuit, which sought to terminate the union contract unilaterally.

As the waiting game continues, Hermanek and Urbinati say they’ll continue to meet to see if there’s some sort of solution that can be reached in order to tamp down the contentious environment that’s existed for more than two years now.

What Hermanek would like to do is cut a deal with the union that would allow the village to save money by not replacing three firefighter positions that have become vacant in the past year or so, through one retirement and two terminations. Hermanek said he’d like to be able to replace those positions with paid-on-call firefighters. Doing so would allow the village to avoid new pension obligations and avoid paying overtime to union firefighters.

However, the union’s position, according to their attorney, J. Dale Berry, is that the village is not allowed to staff its fire department — including its paramedics — in any way other than what’s required by state law. According to Berry, civil service rules were tightened in 2011, upgrading hiring standards for firefighters and paramedics. “The only way they can staff it is by hiring from a competitive list [of potential employees],” said Berry. Those rules can be the subject of contract discussions, said Berry, but “they have to negotiate that.”

When the village filed its lawsuit to privatize the department in September 2014, one of the key arguments was that the village ought to be able to terminate its contract with the union unilaterally after reaching an impasse in negotiations. But with almost every decision in court going against the village during the past 18 months, it appears that the village is extending an olive branch by Hermanek holding informal private talks with union leaders.

Both Urbinati and Berry said that a solution is possible. “We can settle this in a reasonable way,” Berry said, “but [the village] ha[s] to acknowledge they’re covered by the law.”

thanks Dan

a complete summary of articles on this topic can be found HERE

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North Riverside considers privatizing FD (more)

Excerpts from the Riverside-BrookfieldLandmark.com:

A Cook County judge has punted on the question of whether the village of North Riverside has the right to summarily terminate its contract with union firefighters and replace them with private firm.

On Thursday afternoon, Judge Diane Larsen also ensured the question won’t be decided at the circuit court level. A hearing whose outcome might have set a precedent for Illinois labor law instead lasted all of five minutes, with Larsen ruling the circuit court had no jurisdiction over the matter.

Instead, Larsen stated, the Illinois Labor Relations Board should be the venue where the village should have made its case before turning to the courts.

“There must be an exhaustion of remedies, and that has not occurred,” Larsen said.

The village had filed its suit seeking termination of its contract with the union in September 2014.

Burt Odelson, the attorney representing the village of North Riverside, disagreed with Larsen’s ruling, claiming the circuit court does have jurisdiction to make rulings on contracts. He will file a notice of appeal of Larsen’s decision regarding the jurisdictional question on Friday and ask the Illinois Court of Appeals for an expedited briefing schedule.

“All I’m asking them to do is to say the [circuit] court has jurisdiction to state whether it’s a valid contract,” Odelson said. “I think [Larsen] was incredibly wrong by not hearing the case.”

It’s unclear how quickly the appellate court will take up the matter. But looming in the future for the village is an appearance with the firefighters union before the Illinois Labor Relations Board in mid-December. That hearing will address an unfair labor practice complaint filed against the village in December 2014, alleging that village officials failed to bargain in good faith on a new union contract following the expiration of the prior contract at the end of April 2014. That complaint also alleged that the village retaliated against union employees who engaged in protected union activities.

The village insists it did bargain in good faith and that the two sides reached an impasse in negotiations, which led to the village’s decision to seek unilateral termination of its contract with union firefighters and replace them with employees from Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

Another matter the village faces is contract arbitration, which Odelson insists is moot. “We did go to the table; we reached an impasse. We declared the contract is over,” Odelson said. “We went to the table, we’re not going to the table [again].”

However, a ruling made by Larsen last December would appear to argue against that interpretation. Larsen in December 2014 denied a motion by the village to delay contract arbitration and sent the matter to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

An arbitrator was chosen and both sides appeared before him in January. The village participated in the arbitration hearing under protest. Odelson at that time filed motions with the arbitrator to both stay arbitration and to dismiss it.

Arbitrator Robert Brookins put the arbitration proceedings on on hold pending a decision by the circuit court, but he didn’t dismiss them.

Now that Larsen has ruled she doesn’t have jurisdiction, the village must engage in the arbitration process, which is spelled out by state law, said J. Dale Berry, the attorney for North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714.

“They wanted the court to approve their construct of [Illinois labor law] and to terminate interest arbitration, the contract and the employees and to substitute them with PSI,” Berry said. “Now what’s in place is mandatory language in the [Illinois Labor Relations] act.

Catch up on all the posts about this topic HERE.

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

It’s been nearly a year since the village of North Riverside filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court asking a judge to rule that the village contract with the firefighters’ union was terminated, allowing North Riverside to move ahead with a plan to privatize firefighting services.

In June the village’s attorney, Burt Odelson, succeeded in getting Judge Diane Larsen to set a date to rule on the village motion for summary judgment. That hearing has been set for Sept. 9 at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago.

“Either we’ll have a decision that day, or we’ll argue [the case] and have a decision very shortly after,” Odelson said.

In the meantime, however, the firefighters’ union has filed a counter claim against the village, arguing that any attempt to privatize the department runs afoul of the Illinois constitution.

Odelson called the counter claim another delaying tactic by the union, which has succeeded in dragging out the lawsuit for 11 months. Odelson also called the counter claim illegal since the firefighter union didn’t first file a motion for leave to file a counter claim before filing it on July 24.

The union has since filed a motion for leave to file. That motion will be considered on Aug. 26.

Attorneys for the firefighters are using as the basis for their argument the pension protection clause of the state constitution, which in May was reinforced by the Illinois Supreme Court. At that time, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling overturning a pension reform law passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Regardless of the state’s ability to afford its pension obligations, the court ruled, the Illinois constitution expressly forbids state pension benefits that have been agreed to by contract to be “diminished or impaired.”

Attorneys J. Dale Berry and Robin Burroughs argue in their July 24 circuit court filing on behalf of North Riverside Firefighters Union 2714 that the village of North Riverside’s action not only seeks to diminish their clients’ contractually agreed to pension benefits, the village seeks to eliminate them completely.

Late last year, the village of North Riverside formally terminated all of its firefighters, though they remain on the job since the village’s lawsuit has not been resolved yet by the court.

“The village is saying they’re abolishing the fire department, so the pension benefits will be frozen,” Berry said. “That makes what they’re doing unconstitutional.”

The counter claim asks Judge Larsen to rule that the village’s plan to terminate its union firefighters and outsource firefighting services as unconstitutional and to dismiss the village’s lawsuit.

Odelson said what the village seeks to accomplish has nothing to do with the state’s pension protection clause. Such a ruling in favor of the union, said Odelson, would “give a union a life contract, that you can never lay off or terminate anyone. It’s ludicrous.”

In the meantime, the Illinois Labor Relations Board continues to wait on moving forward with contract arbitration between the two sides until the circuit court case has been settled.

North Riverside’s firefighters have been working without a contract since April 30, 2014. That summer, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. announced his plan to use Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) to take over firefighting services for the village. PSI has served as the village’s paramedic vendor for almost 30 years.

After a number of contract negotiating sessions in late summer 2014, the village declared an impasse, said its contract with firefighters was no longer valid and filed suit to have a judge rule it could unilaterally terminate its union contract, despite no strike/no lockout language.

The union contends the village never sought to negotiate in good faith and already had made up its mind to privatize the fire department. It filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the village in response in addition to invoking arbitration. Those matters are still pending.

thanks Dan

the full series of articles on this topic can be found HERE

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