Posts Tagged Chris Kribales

North Riverside Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

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

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 considers privatizing FD (more)

The Riverside-Brookfiled Landmark has an article about this week’s village board meeting in North Riverside;

North Riverside’s village board on Monday night was confronted with a sea of orange and a strong display of solidarity toward firefighters, who are battling against a plan to privatize the department and shift the village fire service to the company that now provides its paramedics.

For the second straight week, about 150 people packed the Village Commons council chamber to overflowing. The vast majority, many of them North Riverside firefighters and union [members] from other municipalities, wore orange T-shirts bearing the crest of North Riverside Firefighters Local 2714.

“Your radical idea to balance your budget [after] years of misappropriation and mismanagement of town funds, does not give you the right to bargain with our safety,” said Chris Kribales, a North Riverside firefighter and resident of the village for more than a decade. “This town deserves professional, sworn people to protect them.”

Monday’s meeting was the legally required public hearing for the village’s 2014-15 appropriations ordinance, which must be passed by the end of July. The village board is scheduled to meet at a special session on Thursday, July 24, to pass the ordinance, which guides spending for the current fiscal year, which began May 1.

The appropriations ordinance drafted by village officials calls for a savings in fire department spending of more than $700,000. Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. has proposed deriving that savings by contracting out fire protection services to Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI), which has provided paramedics to North Riverside for 28 years.

Firefighters have been offered a chance to sign on with PSI at their current salaries, but they would lose benefits such as their pensions and health care in favor of benefits provided by PSI.

Hermanek has identified the steep cost of firefighter pensions as the reason the village needs to change the way the fire department operates. The village has failed over the past decade to fund its fire and police pensions adequately, and now faces sanctions from the state of Illinois unless it does so.

Firefighters and their supporters say the village is scapegoating firefighters for financial problems it built for itself over more than two decades, including a failure to raise the village’s property tax levy, village subsidies for water and waste hauling services, and generous salaries and benefits for village employees and elected officials.

North Riverside firefighters have been working without a contract since April 30. The village and the union have had two negotiating sessions so far. A third is scheduled for July 21, just prior to the vote on the fiscal-year appropriation.

Firefighter Rick Urbinati, who also made a public statement at Monday’s hearing, said he believed the two sides could negotiate an agreement that would save the union structure and find the savings the village is looking for. “This union’s been here since 1979 and it’ll stay here.”

The attorney for the firefighters union has said previously that the union would sue the village if it attempted to privatize the department.

Several supporters of the union who spoke Monday said they would be happy to pay more in taxes to ensure that the village’s fire department remained as is. Others cautioned that privatizing fire protection was risky and would be susceptible to constant turnover. Of the 18 speakers, Monday, 13 were strong supporters of the firefighters’ position. Only a handful warned that the village’s pension burden would drive North Riverside’s finances into the ground.

“Pension costs for village employees are eating us alive,” said Al Meyer, who supports the village’s proposed solution to the pension issue. “Our village leaders have stepped up with an innovative plan to address this problem. Continue negotiations with the fire union to cut expenses. And if that fails, privatize the fire department.”

thanks Dan

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