Posts Tagged North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714

North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the rblandmark.com:

On Nov. 18, even though the company’s proposal was the more expensive option, a majority of the North Riverside village board said they would vote in favor of extending a contract for another five years for paramedic services with Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI), which has provided paramedic services for the village for more than three decades.

But that extension was conditioned on the village administration pledging to explore the North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 proposal to hire full-time and part-time paramedics in order to wean the village from its reliance on a private company.

Two of the paramedic proposals submitted to the village on Aug. 16 were from private firms, PSI and Metro Paramedic Services. Each submitted a proposal for a five-year contract, with Metro’s price coming in at $2,415,441, compared to PSI’s $2,530,200.

North Riverside Firefighters Union 2714 also submitted a proposal to staff the village ambulances with part-time paramedics, but the proposal didn’t meet the requirements of the village’s request.

A quick calculation performed by the village’s fire chief, but not submitted to the administration prior to Nov. 18, indicated such a proposal could cost an estimated $2.1 million over five years, but the finance director said she couldn’t vouch for the figures.

The union’s proposal was inspired by the Village of Bensenville’s solution for paramedic staffing, employing in-house full- and part-time paramedics. Two trustees said that option was worth exploring after visiting the Bensenville Fire Department to get more information.

With only three paramedics assigned full time by PSI to North Riverside, and with PSI’s contract extension twisting in the wind, Fire Chief John Kiser said it was becoming difficult to convince contract paramedics to commit to being assigned permanently to North Riverside. While the village’s ambulance is fully staffed each shift, the turnover in personnel on those shifts is enormous. He also suggested extending PSI’s contract at this time to avoid a change that could result in an all-new crew of paramedics being assigned to North Riverside.

Two trustees opposed extending PSI’s contract, with one proposing to throw out the proposals the village accepted in August and seek new ones, even though PSI’s latest proposal represents a decrease in the fee the village now pays. He said that by rejecting the proposals and seeking new ones, the companies would get the message that they need to be more competitive. In fiscal year 2019-20, North Riverside budgeted $523,000 for paramedic services. Over five years, such a fee would equate to $2,615,000.

The village board will formally vote to extend the contract with PSI at its meeting on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in the council chamber of the Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave.

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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 Fire Department news

Excerpts from the rblandmark.com:

The president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 announced a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Brian Basek during a blistering and, at times, personal denouncement at the end of the village board’s March 20 meeting, and which appeared timed to inflict maximum political damage and embarrassment to Mayor Hubert Hermanek just two weeks before the April 4 election.

In a council chamber packed to overflowing with supporters of both union firefighters and the village’s administration, union President Chris Kribales said members cast unanimous no confidence votes and read a two-page prepared statement blasting Basek’s “inability to provide sound leadership and effectively manage the affairs of this fire department.”

Basek, a full-time North Riverside firefighter for 32 years and chief since 2013, announced his retirement last year and intended on walking away from the job at the end of November 2016.

He agreed to stay on through the election as a favor to Hermanek, since candidates for the job were leery of taking a new job with a mayoral election just over the horizon.

The chief sat silently through Kribales three-minute statement, during which the union president criticized him for “flagrant apathy for public safety,” “orders to use antiquated apparatus and equipment” while new equipment sat idle, “intentionally misinterpret[ing] the labor agreement, and “micromanag[ing] the day-to-day operations of his command staff.”

“This undereducated, underqualified mayoral appointee conveys an arrogance and ignorance dangerous to his position by not allowing positive, proactive decisions necessary for this department to move confidently forward,” said Kribales to the applause of his supporters.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Basek told the Landmark, “I don’t want to dignify Mr. Kribales’ remarks with a response.”

Hermanek responded at the meeting to the no-confidence announcement by rattling off a list of accomplishments, from setting department policies to securing a grant for a new fire engine, that lasted six minutes. At the conclusion of Hermanek’s remarks, many in the audience along with all of the members of the village board, responded with a standing ovation in support of the fire chief.

While the fire chief didn’t want to respond to the vote of no confidence, Hermanek called the union president’s statement “embarrassing, disgusting and uncalled for.”

The mayor also said it was an election stunt near the climax of a campaign where administration three-year effort to privatize the fire department have drawn clear battle lines.

Kribales told the Landmark that firefighters took the no-confidence vote about a month ago. Basek and Hermanek said no one from the fire department mentioned anything to them about the vote in the past month.

Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, who stood to applaud after the mayor’s March 20 remarks, is running against Hermanek for mayor and has made the fire department his number one issue for the past two municipal elections.

In 2015, Demopoulos was re-elected trustee, leading a slate of candidates calling itself Save Our Firefighters.

Since 2013, he has supported the fire union’s proposal for the village to drop its longtime private paramedic service and use part-timers to man ambulances while union firefighters, most of whom are not cross-trained, get paramedic certification. Demopoulos and the union want the department to be staffed only by union firefighter/paramedics and Demopoulos has embraced the union’s call for additional staffing.

Paramedic Services of Illinois, the village’s paramedic service for more than three decades, has contributed $8,885 to the VIP Party, of which Hermanek and every village trustee with the exception of Demopoulos is a member. Their last contribution was for $1,500 on Feb. 14.

While state campaign contribution records don’t indicate any large donors to Demopoulos’ campaign to be from individuals or groups associated with firefighters, past Demopoulos campaigns drew financial support from local and out-of-town firefighters.

In 2015, the biggest contributors to Save Our Firefighters were a pair of Berwyn firefighters, which each gave $1,000. The campaign also received donations from the Berwyn Firefighters Union ($250), the Cicero Firefighters Union ($250) and a veteran North Riverside firefighter ($200).

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

Previous posts can be viewed HERE

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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 firefighters deliver Christmas gifts

Excerpts from the RBLandmark.com:

Members of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 made a visit to the Ronald McDonald House on he campus of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood on Dec. 15 to deliver toys to patients and the house itself.

Eight patients ranging in age from infants to 18 years old received gifts from the firefighters. Costco also donated a $100 gift card to the Ronald McDonald House.

Firefighter Rich Gray played Santa Claus. He was joined by firefighters Jason Williams, Chris Kribales, Dave Rajk and Mike Wisniewski.

thanks Dan

North Riverside firefighters deliver Christmas gifts to patients at the Ronald McDonald house

RBLandmark.com photo

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

This from the RBLandmark.com:

The village of North Riverside’s bid to privatize its fire department suffered a setback Thursday afternoon when a Cook County judge denied the village’s motion to delay contract arbitration with the firefighters union.

Judge Diane Larsen sided with North Riverside Firefighters Union 2714, saying the village had not proven it would suffer irreparable harm by allowing arbitration to proceed.

While acknowledging that the issues of pension obligations and the ability of the village to pay those costs were serious, those issues can be dealt with before a panel of arbitrators, which has already been chosen by the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

North Riverside’s attorney, Burt Odelson, said he would file an appeal with the Illinois Court of Appeals the first week of January to try to prevent arbitration from proceeding. The village filed a lawsuit in September asking for a judge to invalidate its contract with firefighters. The contract expired April 30 and the two sides engaged in several negotiating sessions before the village claimed the two sides had come to an impasse.

Odelson reasserted the village’s claim in court on Thursday that “the village is fighting for its financial life” in the face of pension obligations it can’t pay. North Riverside for several years during the past decade either underfunded its pension obligation or paid nothing into its fire pension fund. As a result, the Illinois Department of Insurance has ordered the village to either fully fund its pensions or risk having sales tax revenue seized to pay the pension obligation, beginning in 2016.

“[It will be] a disaster for the village if we go to interest arbitration,” Odelson told Larsen.

The two sides have an arbitration session scheduled for Jan. 22. That session will take place unless the appellate court overturns the circuit court’s decision.

J. Dale Berry, the local attorney for the firefighters union, successfully argued that the village had more than a year to work out the issues through the arbitration process. The village filed suit, he said, asking [the judge] for permission to breach that agreement.” State law, Berry argued, was clear that the firefighters contract could not be summarily invalidated by the village.

Larsen did not rule Thursday on the broader question of whether the village can summarily terminate its contract with the firefighters union. The two sides will appear again in Cook County Circuit Court on Jan. 14. At that time, Larsen is expected to rule on the union’s motion to compel the village to hand over records related to its discussions on privatizing the fire department with Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

The village contends it is simply asking for the judge to determine a matter of law, which does not require extensive discovery. In any case, Odelson said, there are no records other than the ones it has provided to the union already.

The union argues that the village never bargained in good faith and had already begun negotiating with PSI about privatization before sitting down at the bargaining table with firefighters.

There is a separate complaint on that issue and the union’s contention that the village engaged in retaliation against firefighters, which is pending before the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

While Odelson said Thursday’s ruling gives no indication of how Larsen will rule, Berry was optimistic that things were breaking the union’s way.

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

The RBLandmark has this article:

With an important court date looming, the village of North Riverside’s attempt to privatize its fire department got a bit more complicated last week when the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) issued a complaint against the village, charging that it failed or refused to bargain in good faith with the firefighters’ union and retaliated against union employees who engaged in protected union activities.

Melissa Mlynski, executive director of the Illinois Labor Relations Board notified the village on Dec. 8 that it had 15 days to file an answer to the complaint. The matter will be taken up at a hearing in the future.

In the meantime, both the village and firefighters’ union will appear in Cook County Circuit Court on Dec. 18. North Riverside officials hope that Judge Diane Larsen will rule that the village’s contract with the firefighters’ union, which expired April 30, has terminated.  The village filed a lawsuit seeking a ruling on the matter of the contract’s validity on Sept. 12.

A judge invalidating the contract, the village says, would clear the way for hiring Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) to take over fire operations for the village. The company has provided paramedic services for the village for nearly three decades. The village contends it needs to privatize the department in order to get out from under a large and growing pension burden. North Riverside says such a move would save the village $700,000 annually.

The union argues that the contract is still valid and that language in the contract clearly prohibits the village from laying off firefighters and privatizing the department while negotiations are still pending. The village claims that contract talks are at an impasse; the union denies that contention.

On Sept. 18, North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 filed a demand for arbitration with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The board approved that demand for arbitration and one brief session has already been held. The next arbitration date has been set for Jan. 22, though that could change depending on what the judge rules on Dec. 18.

The union believes that arbitration is the proper venue for hashing out differences between the village and firefighters.

J. Dale Berry, the local counsel for the firefighters’ union, said the ILRB complaint issued Monday bolsters hat contention.

The complaint, said Berry, also undercuts the village’s claims that there are no facts in dispute and that its lawsuit should be a simple administrative judgment. The village claims in its lawsuit that it had bargained in good faith and had participated in several negotiating sessions with the union before declaring an impasse.

But the complaint filed Monday states that the village failed to respond to union requests to negotiate a new contract until after the village announced publicly it would seek to have PSI take over fire operations.

On June 16, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. issued a letter to residents announcing that proposed partnership with PSI “to include fire protection services and prevent layoffs.” The village and union didn’t sit down for their first negotiating session until June 24 and reportedly gave the union a take-it-or-leave-it proposal for firefighters to resign their positions with the village and become employees of PSI.

Firefighters refused to accept the proposal.

The complaint also alleges that Fire Chief Brian Basek denied personal and vacation day requests to union officials, including union President Rick Urbinati, Vice President Chris Kribales, Treasurer David Rajk and Union Steward Jason Williams in the wake of that negotiating session. In the past, the complaint states, such requests were granted routinely.

The complaint alleges that the chief’s actions were taken “to retaliate against public employees because they engaged in protected, concerted and union activity.”

thanks Dan

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

The RBlandmark.com has an article on the ongoing attempt by North Riverside to privatize the fire department:

It’s not just the future of the North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 that could be at stake when both sides meet again in court on Dec. 18. It could be the future of public employee unions, period.

The village of North Riverside contends that its responsibility to honor the union contract ended when the village declared it to be at an impasse with the firefighters union in September. That’s when the village filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to declare the contract, which expired on April 30, null and void in order to allow North Riverside to hire Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI), a private company, to take over firefighting services for the village. The company has provided the village with paramedic services for almost 30 years.

On Dec. 18, Judge Diane Larsen is expected to make a ruling with respect to the village’s contention that the contract is terminated. How she will rule is the wild card.

“She may rule or she may take it under advisement,” said J. Dale Berry, the local counsel for the firefighters’ union. “But we’ll get to the merit of the claims.”

If Larsen does rule in favor of the village, it could have a monumental effect on how labor contracts with municipalities are interpreted. Language in contracts for police officers and firefighters include no strike, no lockout provisions to allow negotiations and arbitration to occur after contracts expire without putting public safety at risk. North Riverside itself has clung to that interpretation in the past. The most recent firefighters’ contract was approved more than two years after the previous deal expired.

“It’s an attractive solution for people looking for easy answers,” Berry said of the village’s belief that it can unilaterally walk away from contract negotiations by citing an impasse.

North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said that if the court rules in the village’s favor “it would change the whole playing field.”

Since the village filed its lawsuit on Sept. 12, several things have happened. The firefighters union responded to the suit by filing an unfair labor practice complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board and, at the same time, filed a demand for compulsory arbitration. The Illinois Labor Relations Board agreed with the union’s demand for arbitration and chose an arbitrator. The first arbitration session is scheduled for Nov. 24.

Additionally, on Oct. 1 the firefighters’ union received word that it would be granted legal assistance from International Association of Firefighters through the union’s law firm, Woodley & McGillivary, based in Washington, D.C.

On Oct. 30, the village’s attorney, Burt Odelson, filed an amended complaint in Cook County court, adding the Illinois Labor Relations Board as a defendant. And on Nov. 17, Odelson made a motion to prevent contract arbitration from beginning. While the judge ruled that arbitration could move forward, she also ruled that if North Riverside refused to participate in the Nov. 24 session, it wouldn’t prejudice the court against the village in terms of its lawsuit seeking to terminate the contract. In other words, nothing that happens during arbitration will have any effect until after the judge rules on the merits of the village’s lawsuit on Dec. 18.

While the judge could rule in favor of the village, she could also rule that the court is not the place to resolve the dispute. Rather, she could rule that arbitration is where the dispute ought to be settled. If that happens, Odelson said he would immediately appeal the case to the Illinois Court of Appeals.

Village officials had hoped to be able to privatize the fire department this year, but the court case has moved slower than officials had hoped for.

Meanwhile, North Riverside firefighters and firefighters from surrounding communities are expected to go door-to-door this weekend in the village, passing out information regarding the village’s proposal to privatize fire services. “It’ll be a quick handout of information that residents aren’t getting,” said Rick Urbinati, president of North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714.

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North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

RBLandmark.com has an article about a motion filed in court to terminate the contract with firefighters in North Riverside:

The village of North Riverside filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, asking Judge Diane J. Larsen to rule that it has the authority to summarily terminate its contract with North Riverside Firefighters Union Local 2714 and allow it to privatize the department on Dec. 5.

The motion comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the village on Sept. 12 asking for the same right to terminate its union contract with firefighters, which expired April 30.

“At issue here is the simple reality that contracts do not exist in perpetuity,” said North Riverside’s attorney, Burt Odelson, in a press release issued Monday morning. “They have a finite start and end date, unless extended by mutual agreement of the parties.”

Both sides will appear in court Wednesday for a status hearing. At that hearing, Odelson said he will ask Larsen to seek a quick response from the union to the village’s motion. The judge may or may not honor that request. The firefighters union still has not filed its answer to the original lawsuit. J. Dale Berry, the attorney for Firefighters Local 2714, must file that response by Oct. 17.

The village contends that the two sides are at an impasse after several rounds of contract negotiations, including ones in the presence of a federal mediator. Those bargaining sessions, says the village, were held in good faith.

The Sept. 12 lawsuit doesn’t ask the judge to consider anything but the village’s argument that, after bargaining in good faith and reaching an impasse, the village ought to be allowed to summarily terminate its contract with the union. The village notes in its motion for summary judgment that even though it has given firefighters 60 days’ notice, it will not move to terminate the contract on Dec. 5 without a judge’s order.

But the firefighters union argues that the village did not bargain in good faith. On Sept. 19, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board against North Riverside, charging that the village had no interest in negotiating a new agreement and engaged merely in “surface bargaining.”

The complaint states that the village never intended to bargain in good faith, as evidenced by a letter sent to residents by Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. on June 18, outlining the village’s plan to privatize the fire department. The first negotiating session between the village and firefighters was held June 24.

In addition, on Sept. 19, the union filed a demand for compulsory interest arbitration with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, demanding an arbitrator be chosen to settle the contract dispute.

However, on Monday, Odelson told the Landmark that the village will not participate in the arbitration process. “There’s nothing to arbitrate. The contract has expired,” Odelson said. If interest arbitration moves forward anyway, said Odelson, the village would seek to stay that action in court.

If the court rules in favor of the village, it could send shock waves through the state’s public employee unions. Such a ruling would seemingly make it possible for a municipality to terminate its union contracts when they expire with 60-days’ written notice.

Meanwhile on Oct. 2, the Illinois Department of Insurance delivered its findings regarding a meeting with village officials on June 26. At that meeting, the Department of Insurance ordered the village to show cause as to why it had not made required contributions to the police and fire pension funds in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. During that time, the village had underfunded its pension contributions by $5.2 million. In its ruling, the Department of Insurance ruled that the village failed to provide a sufficient reason for not making the contributions and ordered the village to submit “evidence of compliance” to the department within 30 days.

Since North Riverside does not have $5.2 to contribute to the funds, it likely will have to pay a $2,000 fine. More importantly, if the village fails to come into compliance by 2016, the state can begin to deduct up to one-third of its sales tax revenues from the village’s general fund to bring the village into compliance.

“The state is putting enormous pressure on municipalities to fully fund their public pension obligations. North Riverside is not the only community that does not and will not have the millions of dollars that will be required,” Odelson said in the press release. “Elected municipal leaders must have the ability to make legal and rational decisions that maintain vital services without being forced to declare bankruptcy.”

thanks Dan

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