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Union to battle Oak Lawn over 911 dispatcher decision

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The union that represents Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatchers has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the village following the board’s controversial decision to privatize the service.

  Ron Cicinelli, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union the represents the dispatchers, filed the grievance Monday with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. It states that the village has no right to terminate the dispatchers because they have an existing contract with the village.
  If the board rules in favor of the union, it would issue a complaint and go before the attorney general to get an injunction, Cicinelli said.
  The village could resume contract negotiations with the dispatchers or proceed with outsourcing plans. The latter option would require the village to honor the terms of the current contract, including salary, benefits and pension, Cicinelli said.
  The union’s contract does not expire until December 2014.
  “We told them at the (village) board meeting that we were going to do it,” Cicinelli said. “I was hoping (the village) would honor the existing contract. We have a contract. They have to honor it.”
  Cicinelli said the village has not meet with village officials since the Nov. 26 board meeting. He said he received on Monday the village’s layoff plan for the dispatchers.
  Village Manager Larry Deetjen would not comment Tuesday on the possibility of the talks resuming between the village and the union.
  The village on Nov. 27 placed emergency operator Lori Gromala on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary action. Gromala is the subject investigation into behavior disrupting call center operations during her shift, according to a press release. Gromala also received a three-day suspension in 2012 for misconduct, according to the village.
  The village board voted 4-2 to privatize 911 call center dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, Deetjen said.
  Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan voted against the proposal.
  At that meeting, Cicinelli pleaded with the board to continue negotiations with the union to reach an accord.
  He added that he blames elected officials, not Deetjen, for the decision.
  “I put 100 percent of this on the mayor and her village board,” Cicinelli said. “Larry (Deetjen) is just an agent. All he can do is recommend.”
  Deetjen in August received authority from the village board to negotiate with two national dispatching firms to operate the emergency dispatch center, which handles fire, police and ambulance calls for Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank and Bridgeview.
  The center also handles fire department calls for Bedford Park and a portion of the Central Stickney Fire Protection District.
  Deetjen said the potential move is not a reflection on the performance of the current dispatchers.
  Streit said at last week’s meeting that outsourcing emergency dispatching services was an ill-advised move. He said the village will spend more money defending a lawsuit that ultimately will be filed by the union than it will save via outsourcing.
  Norcomm Public Safety Communications will assume dispatching services for the village and the other communities it serves. Oak Lawn dispatchers will have the opportunity to apply for their old jobs.
  The Metropolitan Alliance of Police in late 2012 approved a contract with the village after a lengthy negotiation, Cicinelli said. The union was hopeful it could extend the contract through at least 2016, he said.
  One month after the current contract was ratified, the village asked the union to consider cost-saving measures, including deferring the 2.5 percent wage increase included in the contract, regular pay for overtime hours, hiring part-time dispatchers and changing the wage scale for new employees, Cicinelli said.