Posts Tagged Paramedic Services of Illinois

Norwood Park Fire Protection District news

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Terrence Vavra, the new fire chief for the Norwood Park Fire Protection District, originally studied to be an architect.

Working with architects, though, he began to see how the legal side and structural aspects demands of the job might interfere with his vision of an architect’s life.

“About the same time,” he recalled, “my dad and I were standing on a porch, and we saw the engine go by and guys hanging off the back, back in the day when you could … and I said yow — I wonder where they’re going; that would be cool to do as a side gig.”

That side gig turned into a 40-year career, starting as a volunteer firefighter with the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District in 1976 becoming fire chief of Buffalo Grove and the emergency management coordinator, before retiring in 2015.

In February of this year, the Board of Trustees of the Norwood Park Fire Protection District named him the new fire chief for the district. The board approved a three-year contract at a special meeting on Feb. 9. The trustees cited Vavra’s extensive career and focus on training and leadership as strong factors in his final selection.

Vavra succeeds Chief Kevin Stenson, a 31-year-member of the department.

Vavra hold a master’s degree in management and organizational behavior from Benedictine University and a bachelor’s degree from Western University Illinois. He holds numerous certifications from the Office of the State Fire Marshal including chief fire officer, fire department safety officer, training program manager, as well as a National Fire Academy certification in command and control.

He is an active member in the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Illinois Fire Chiefs, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs and has served as a board member of the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association.

During the two years he was retired, his teaching took him from Canada to Saudi Arabia. Though the locales and local cultures were vastly different, one thing he found realized is that all firefighters are the same no matter where you go.  “They’ve got a certain personality to them which is really neat, and you can also get a cup of coffee at any firehouse in the world.”

That theory was confirmed In Saudi Arabia, when he came to meet the chief of the department where he was leading a class, “and right behind his desk was a coffee maker and he said ‘Do you want a cup of coffee?” and I thought it’s 100 degrees out, I don’t think so, but thanks for the offer.”

Norwood Park has 21 firefighters and contracts with Paramedic Services of Illinois. Two ambulances, an engine, a truck and shift commander work out of the station. The department works closest with the communities of Park Ridge, Schiller Park, and Elmwood Park.

All fire departments are facing tax caps, pension costs, and personnel costs. The problems are similar, and the question is how do we work to solve those problems.

Vavra is expected to stress training and higher education certification, beyond the certification process set out by the state Fire Marshal’s Office. At Benedictine, he worked with the school administration to set up a scholarship program, allowing firefighters to pursue higher education credits.

“When I started, everything was mechanical,” he said. “Now it’s all digital and electronic. We had fires that were wood and paper, what we classified as combustibles. Now if you look in this room you wouldn’t find any natural products.

“These are all polycarbons and plastics and things that have a huge fire potential, and the fire burns faster and higher now so we have to adapt to that.”

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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 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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Highland Park FD set to provide fire & EMS to Highwood

Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

The city of Highwood has reached agreements with its fire union and individual union members that clear the way for the municipality to dissolve its fire department and receive fire and paramedic services from the city of Highland Park. Highwood voters must first approve a referendum question on the March 15 ballot allowing the city to discontinue providing emergency services.

The two suburbs have worked out the terms of a 30-year contract for Highland Park to take over fire and paramedic services for its neighbor July 1, if Highwood voters approve the ballot question. Under the agreement, Highwood would pay Highland Park $625,000 the first year for emergency and fire inspection services. Annual increases would be tied to inflation but capped at 3 percent. The Highwood City Council was scheduled to vote on the agreement Nov. 17.

A key condition of the accord is that Highwood settle labor disputes with its union, a local of the International Association of Fire Fighters, over the dissolution of the department and the contracting of services before July 1. The pact also requires Highwood to settle grievances brought by three first-year firefighters who were dismissed last spring shortly before their probationary periods were set to expire. At the time, Highwood was reducing the number of full-time firefighters and paramedics, and preparing to contract with Paramedic Services of Illinois for some of its personnel. That plan was put on hold after the union grievances were filed, and the three dismissed firefighters were rehired as part-time employees.

Under the agreements worked out with the union, Highwood will make lump sum severance payments to five firefighters, including the dismissed employees, if the referendum passes. Part-time employees will be paid $25 for each 24-hour shift worked between November, 2015 and June 30, 2016, when the department would close if the referendum passes.

Meanwhile, the employees and the union have agreed not to make disparaging remarks about the city or its efforts to dissolve the fire department, or interfere with the referendum. The union has agreed not to ask the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, an advocacy organization, to become involved in the question of cessation or the referendum.

Highland Park’s Fire Station 34 at 1100 Half Day Road is located a few blocks west of Highwood’s western border, and municipal officials note the department already responds to many Highwood fire calls under automatic and mutual aid agreements. Highwood is less than one square mile and is surrounded on all sides by Highland Park.

Highwood expects to save $684,000 the first year, and is projecting $9.3 million in savings over the first decade of the agreement even if the yearly, inflation-based increases in payments to Highland Park are the maximum 3 percent.

Previous posts 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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Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel (more)

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The City of Highwood has taken a first step toward privatizing its fire department.

City Council members voted 4-2 on June 2 to contract with Paramedic Services of Illinois to supply the department with two firefighter/paramedics per shift, or one-half of the staffing on duty at all times. The City of Highwood will pay Paramedic Services of Illinois about $411,000 the first year to provide six firefighter/paramedics exclusively to the City of Highwood to cover three shifts per day, seven days a week.

Highwood’s four full-time firefighter/paramedics and a pool of part-time personnel will fill out the schedule to ensure that four people are on duty throughout each 24-hour day.

The city recently laid off three full-time, first-year firefighters/paramedics shortly before their probationary period expired.

Highwood Ald. Eric Falberg, who supported the PSI proposal, noted that Highwood’s heavy reliance on part-time people to supplement its full-time force has been difficult to manage in the past, and the city has lacked the flexibility to hold over part-timers into the next shift.

But Ald. Mike Fiore felt strongly that Highwood taxpayers would willingly take on a tax increase in order to hire more full-time personnel. “In my opinion, these (contract) guys are all inexperienced,” Fiore said. “They just came out of the academy and can’t find a gig.”

Also opposed to the move was Ald. Andy Peterson, who felt the city should be looking instead to sharing services with neighboring municipalities. “I am not convinced that supplementing our full-time staff with contract employees — no matter how reputable the firm — is going to maintain or improve the current quality of service,” said Peterson, who agreed the current cost structure of providing services is not sustainable.

Speaking to concerns about contract employee turnover, Mike Hansen, vice president of Paramedic Services of Illinois, acknowledged that employees often leave to work in a municipal fire department for higher pay and pension benefits. Hansen also serves as fire chief for the Village of Lincolnwood, which relies exclusively on Paramedic Services of Illinois to staff its department.

“I am not here to necessarily convince you to (use our service),” said Hansen, acknowledging the advantages and disadvantages. “All I can tell you is our residents appreciate our service.” He added they are particularly appreciative two times a year when their property tax bills come out. “We save our community’s taxpayers about $1.3 million a year in pension liability costs,” he said.

Previous posts are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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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.

thanks Dan

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