Village and MAP work morning, noon and night to make headway in dispatcher mess
The dispute between Oak Lawn and the union that represents the emergency dispatchers, whose jobs were outsourced in December, was settled Tuesday following a marathon mediation session.
“Any and all disputes have been resolved as part of this agreement,” village manager Larry Deetjen said at Tuesday’s village board meeting. “Today was a very productive meeting.”
Terms of the agreement were not available Tuesday night. Representatives from the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union that represents the 911 dispatchers, did not attend the village board meeting.
“We were prepared to issue a joint statement but it requires the executive council of the (Metropolitan Alliance of Police) to approve that statement. They were not prepared between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to sign off on that agreement and we agreed. They needed some time.”
The mediation session started at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m., one hour before the village board meeting, Deetjen said.
He said it was likely that some of the village’s dispatchers would be hired by Norcomm Public Safety Communications, the company that is taking over emergency dispatching services for the village and the towns it serves. Norcomm will begin operations out of the village’s dispatch center Wednesday.
The union in December filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board against the village following the village board’s controversial decision to privatize the service. It stated that the village has no right to terminate the dispatchers because they have an existing contract with the village. The contact was not set to expire until December, 2014.
The labor board recommended that the village and union consider mediation, Deetjen said. The village accepted the recommendation followed by the union, he said.
“I’m a strong believer in mediation,” Deetjen said. “I think both parties talking together is a proper way to conduct labor management.”
Deetjen described the agreement, which requires village board approval, as “fair and just.”
The agreement covers the Nov. 27 administrative leave and pending disciplinary action involving emergency operator Lori Gromala. Gromala was the subject of an investigation into behavior disrupting call center operations during her shift, according to a village 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, union attorney Ron Cicinelli pleaded with the board to continue negotiations with the union to reach an accord.
He added that he blamed elected officials, not Deetjen, for the decision.
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 move was not a reflection on the performance of the current dispatchers.
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.