Mayor Sandra Bury said that the village is still waiting to be served on charges of unfair labor practices in the wake of the village board’s decision to outsource Oak Lawn’s emergency communications center to a private company last month.
An injunction was filed by the Metropolitan Alliance of Police Local 351 charging that village officials engaged in bad faith bargaining and breach of contract.
Oak Lawn trustees voted 4-2 on Nov. 26 to outsource 20 union dispatchers but retain the emergency communication center’s managers, including department director Kathy Hansen.
In seeking a preliminary injunction, the union’s attorney, Ronald Cicinelli, maintains that the village asked for more concessions from the union 38 days after the current contract was finalized in November 2012.
The union charges that during bargaining sessions, the village did not reveal that it had hired a consultant to evaluate the 911 center, and hid it growing financial crisis from union representatives during bargaining sessions.
Named as “individuals involved” in the unfair labor practice charge are the Oak Lawn mayor and trustees.
The injunction seeks to temporarily stop the village from transitioning the 911 emergency center to a private vendor.
The 911 dispatchers’ current contract is not to due to expire until Dec. 31, 2014.
Within days after the injunction was filed with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, the village has inked a contract with Norcomm Public Safety Communications, a privatized emergency call center based in Leyden Township.
The emergency communications center is expected to transition over to Norcomm by mid-January. The ousted 911 dispatchers can apply for their old jobs, but not without taking steep salary cuts, the union maintains.
In the injunction, Cicinelli cited an email that Hansen sent to the village’s 911 dispatchers the day before the village board’s Nov. 26 vote, explaining the application and transition processes.
“The Village is clearly not within its legal rights to repudiate the existing CBA simply because it voted to ‘outsource’ its 911 communication center services,” the complaint reads.
The union further contends that the village has since intimidated and harassed the 911 dispatchers. The morning before Thanksgiving, 911 dispatcher Lori Gromala was placed on paid administrative leave presumably for talking to members of the news media.
The veteran dispatcher was escorted out of the building by Hansen and the police chief following a “brief conversation” with her boss. The village has launched a disciplinary probe claiming that Gromala engaged in “behavior disrupting the Call Center operations during her shift."
Gromala’s removal has had a “chilling effect” on the 911 dispatchers, the
Cicinelli maintains in the union’s complaint that Gromala’s removal has had a “chilling effect” on the dispatchers who are in “fear of losing their jobs should they invoke any constitutionally protected rights (free speech) and/or any labor rights afforded to them under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the [collective bargaining agreement].”
The legal battle taking shape with the dispatchers’ union could potentially run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs -- on the taxpayers’ dime.
Based on the legal costs the village has racked up fighting the village firefighters’ union which has successfully fought to preserve its daily minimum staffing level at 22, such legal costs could far outweigh any cost saving benefits privatizing the 911 emergency center.
Should the union prevail, the village could also be out for damages and/or back pay to the aggrieved dispatchers.
Bury said “the village still hasn’t been served” with any official notice of the union’s action or a future hearing date before the state’s labor relations board.
“The press knows but we don’t,” the mayor said. “Service by media is not service under the labor relations act.”