The Illinois FOP Labor Council

The Labor Council provides full union representation: negotiating and enforcing contracts, improving salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Our members are protected 24 hours a day by a staff of full-time, in-house attorneys and field representatives who have a proven track record of winning.

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By James Daniels, Attorney - Thursday, November 1, 2012

 

 FOP members in Crawford County waited nearly two years for their open contract to be resolved, but when the interest arbitration award came in, their patience was well rewarded.   The unit, which is composed of deputies, dispatchers, correctional officers and clericals, had proposed an 11% general wage increase over four-years. The Employer, for its part, wanted to restructure the entire pay scale in a way that would reduce the wages of the most senior members, and provide no general wage increase for four years.

Arbitrator James Murphy ruled that the Union’s offer was the more reasonable, citing its “more traditional approach”, its consistency with past bargaining history, and being “more realistic in terms of CPI (Consumer Price Index).”  He found that the County’s offer benefited some members while “disadvantaging others”, and would not match the current rise in the cost of living.  In sharp response to the County’s claim that it could not afford to pay the Union’s proposed wage, he stated that “There is not evidence in the record to support the presumption that labor costs as opposed to flawed budgeting practices are the reason that the Sheriff cannot live within his budget.”  He therefore chose the Union’s proposal.  His ruling ensures that the FOP members will not lose ground in the next few years. 

The County had also unilaterally increased premium payments during the negotiation period, and was insisting that the Arbitrator cap the County’s premium contribution at $550 per month.  The Arbitrator not only refused to do so, but held that the County had violated the existing bargaining agreement by increasing the premiums, and ordered affected individuals to be made whole.  He went on to select the Union’s offer as the more reasonable, stating that the County could not show that it had made “extended bargaining attempts” in a good-faith effort to attain its goal.  The FOP members, he ruled, had made “significant concessions” by agreeing to increase their monthly premium contribution from $33 to $50, and the deducible from $500 to $750.  He found that the County’s proposal represented “a radical change from the current plan which involves significant takeaways” that “puts 100% of the risk of future insurance cost increases on the employees”.  While there was a need to “share the pain of rapidly increasing health insurance costs,” such a major breakthrough was not warranted, he ruled, and selected the Union’s proposal.  

The Arbitrator then proceeded to reject the County’s remaining three proposals to remove shift differential pay, reduce comp time accrual, and restructure the overtime turn sheet.  He also did not grant the Union’s request to remove the Sheriff’s discretion to deny or approve uniform/equipment voucher purchases.  In so ruling, he emphasized that there is a very heavy burden upon the party which desires to change the existing contractual terms.  It must be shown that the current system is so broken or dysfunctional that it no longer works, and preferably that there is a history of fruitlessly bargaining for the change, and offering something valuable in return.  Neither party had made such a showing, he said, so he left the existing contract language status quo.

The award was a long time coming, but the results vindicated the Crawford bargaining team’s years of effort, and in particular it revealed their excellent strategic decision to propose modest cost-of-living increases that closely tracked the National Consumer Price Index, and which were consistent with wage increases earned by surrounding law enforcement units.  In particular, it reflects well on their decision to agree to pay a tolerable increase in their monthly premiums, in order to avoid the open-ended liability that the County’s “capped contribution” would have led to. 

 Both the Crawford County bargaining team and their FOP Field Rep, Dave Nixon, deserve congratulations on an overwhelmingly successful conclusion to a two-year battle with their county board.