Former 911 Dispatchers ‘Blindsided’ By Union Settlement With Village

Oak Lawn trustees approve severance agreement for former dispatchers displaced by privatization.

Oak Lawn trustees approved a settlement with the village’s union emergency dispatchers after meeting in executive session Tuesday night.

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.

oak lawn voter January 31, 2014 at 09:07 AM
EF , as a long time manager of union workers I feel terrible for you all. There are other things that these (911) operators lost that also need to be considered not just the Health Benefits, I am sure that you all had life insurance policies that will no longer be in effect, probably a 401K of some kind with an employee % match not to mention the security of emloyment. What really irks me on the administration is that there was no polling of residents (voters) to see what WE wished or even thought. Our tax money. They just follow blindly and dont think. And YES there was only 3 ways to construe Queen Bury's remark, RUDE, INSENSITIVE, and UNPROFESSIONAL.. I wonder if she is as insensitive to her business employees
Elizabeth Forsyth January 31, 2014 at 09:33 AM
Thanks you we all appreciate that. The hardest part is hearing yesterday's colossal mistake by the new dispatch center. Having a possible active shooter at a middle school and they send the entire police force to the wrong school. It's scary. Those extra minutes is the difference between life and death. It just shows what happens when you bring in people who don't know the town or the severity of their mistakes can forever alter the life of someone else.
Larry Murray January 31, 2014 at 09:35 AM
I'm sorry to say I missed this meeting so I can't give my own opinion on how the village president handled the statements given by the dispatchers who were dismissed. I'm lucky enough to be friends with a couple of these dispatchers and several PD officers. I can tell you this. The mindset of the PD (and I am guessing the FD as well) is that no one DARE file a complaint of any problems with Norcomms new dispatchers occur. You are CRAZY to think that Deetjen and Co. will do anything but target the complainer. Deetjen has let employees know that they are expendable, contract or not. He has access to quick and cheap replacements and has the backing of Dr Bury and the majority of the board. Keep that in mind, quick and cheap EMS, fire and police. Oak Lawn has had excellent emergency services, and one third of those services were cut off at the head and thrown out, replaced with the quick and cheap. If anyone thinks that this trend will change is nuts.
oak lawn voter January 31, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Question.....does Deetjen live in Oak Lawn? Is he a registered voter in this Village or does he just maintain an address here. Curious
OakLawnGuy January 31, 2014 at 11:23 AM
He does live here, he may still have a place in FLA as his wife is a member a development board for a Deerfield Beach, FLA subdivision.


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