Twenty dispatchers lost their jobs after the village board voted in November to outsource the Oak Lawn’s 911 emergency call center to a private firm, Norcomm Public Safety Communications.
The terms of the settlement include $250,000 to be divided among those emergency telecommunicators who were laid off when the village’s 911 call center was transferred over to Norcomm last week.
The village has also agreed to pay insurance benefits for laid-off workers for the next three months, per federal law.
Oak Lawn trustees approved the settlement agreement 5-1, with Tr. Bob Streit (Dist. 3) as the dissenting vote.
“It’s a fair severance agreement,” Village Manager Larry Deetjen said. “”The village will pay the $250,000 in four payments to be spread equally among those [dispatchers] that didn’t secure employment through Norcomm.”
In addition, the village and dispatchers union, Metropolitan Alliance of Police Local 351, agreed to settle all outstandings grievances and disputes, after the union charged that the village had engaged in bad-faith bargaining.
Deetjen announced the tentative settlement offer earlier this month after a nine-hour meeting with village and union attorneys, and a state labor arbitrator.
Deetjen said that 16 dispatchers re-interviewed for their jobs, but only seven were made offers, two of which decided to pursue other options.
Some former dispatchers lambasted village board members during Tuesday's meeting, stating that they were blindsided by the announcement the day after learning that union directors had agreed to a settlement offer.
“We as a collective unit did not agree to the settlement,” former 911 dispatcher Elizabeth McCarthy said. “I’m sure the village manager will try to sell to all of you that some wondrous agreement took place with dispatchers and that everyone is happy and pleased. That’s 100-percent false.”
McCarthy also stated that she was happy to be relieved of the stress and the “bad management” that caused the call center to "unravel."
“I’m disappointed that the village led us to believe that we would be hired by Norcomm,” McCarthy added.
Another former dispatcher, Lori Cypranowski, commented that she has already been hearing complaints from police officers of “many mistakes” being made by some of the new Norcomm dispatchers.
“They’re concerned that police officers’ safety is being compromised,” Cypranowski said. “We just don’t want this to end on a lie and we want you to hear from us because we were pretty much silenced at the end.”
Amy Goldsmith, a dispatcher with 12 years’ experience, said she had reapplied for her job but was notified via email that Norcomm would not be making an offer.
“Three of the five that continue on with Norcomm had less than four years’ experience, two of which I trained,” Goldsmith said.
The village manager said that dispatchers were subjected to written and personality tests, and background checks.
Kathy Hansen, who is continuing on as director the emergency communications center, is responsible for training new dispatchers, but the hiring decisions are entirely up to Norcomm, Deetjen said.
He disagreed with the former dispatchers’ contention of inexperienced "radio room in training" handling 911 calls.
Combined with three team leaders, who were also allowed to retain their jobs, the director, and transitioned dispatchers, the group averages over 9 years of experience. New hires were being blended in with team leaders and more experienced dispatchers.
Norcomm continues to supplement and interview candidates to bring the department to full staffing at 25.
Deetjen said he has not had any complaints from the police or fire chiefs about compromised safety or mistakes made by trainees.
“If any police officer, firefighter or employee has an issue they know the procedure for filing a complaint and it has not happened,” he said.