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Officer Down

Thursday, October 3, 2013

River Forest and its police union agree to new contract

--My 6000th post since opening Duke's Blotter in March of 2009.
What better way to celebrate than sending congratulations to our fellow brethren in River Forest for a successful contract negotiation.--

Story at Pioneer Press

By: Phil Rockrohr |

River Forest and its police union have reached a three-year contract overhauling step-based pay increases and eliminating a subsidy of retiree health insurance.

In exchange, the 25-member union received annual pay raises of 2.75 percent and a one-time payout for health insurance after retirement for officers with five to 14 years of experience.

The sweeping changes were done without the presence of attorneys during the nine-month-long negotiations.

“I’m assuming it’s the first time in village history that’s been done,” said Detective Justin Labriola, president of Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 46. “We never had them in the room until the last session, and that was just to finalize language more than anything.”

Both sides described the process, which took more than 10 rounds of negotiations, as friendly. The FOP approved the contract without a single “no” vote, Labriola said.

“Each side came in with issues important to them,” Village Administrator Eric Palm said. “Instead of throwing the kitchen sink, we said, ‘Here are three or four things we’d like to work out.’ We agreed that if we couldn’t figure it out, we’d go back to the traditional style.

“But we were able to get things worked out and reach a good contract for everybody.”

The biggest issue for River Forest was eliminating the 30-year-old practice of paying one-third of the premium for health insurance for retired officers, Palm said.

“That is a cost that escalates over time,” he said. “We wanted to end it for everybody, but we wanted to grandfather the existing retirees. We did not want to take the rug out from under anybody’s feet.”

If officers have 15 years of more of service, the village will continue to subsidize their health care after retirement, Palm said.

If they have five to 14 years of service, the village agreed to one-time payments of $11,000 to $30,800 per officer, depending on their years of service, according to the contract. Those with less than five years of service will no longer receive the benefit.

Under the restructuring of the salary schedule, officers will receive the same minimum and maximum pay, but the years of experience required to access the increases was expanded from six to nine steps.

Officers hired before May 1 will continue to receive raises based on the six-step schedule, while those hired after May 1 will get pay hikes based on the nine-step schedule.

“Obviously, we would like to go ahead and keep everything the same, but as time changes things, that is part of the negotiations,” Labriola said. You have to change. You just have to make sure it benefits the lodge. You have to evaluate what outweighs what at this point in time.”