With arbitration closely approaching, the president of an Orland Park police union expressed frustration in a lack of progress in contract negotiations, well over a year since the contract expired.
Members of Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 159 have been working without a current contract since May 2011. Arbitration was first planned for last February, but was later moved to September 12.
MAP 159 President Ron Ahrendt described a July 2 mediation meeting as a “very disappointing experience,” mainly because talks focused on health insurance, which was the cause of previous disagreements between the village and union.
“The village seemed ill prepared for the mediation process, providing no comparisons to justify ground breaking triple digit percentage increases for employee medical insurance premium costs,” Ahrendt wrote in a release. “The end result, nothing was accomplished.”
According to Ahrendt, the village is looking for a 625 percent increase in premium costs for HMO recipients and a 235 percent increase in premiums for members under a PPO, with a 1.5 percent increase in pay.
While specifics were not cited, Ahrendt indicated in February that the union is pursuing a contract similar to what they worked under for about the last four years.
Ahrendt also was critical of dropping comp time for officers in lieu of overtime, when other village employees still can use comp time. He said it saved the village about $920,000 between 2001 and 2007 rather than spending on overtime.
“If the police officers are “unsustainable” as the village proclaims, why did they reject our offer to freeze our contract for one year?” Ahrendt wrote. “The village's proposed health insurance premium costs, while only giving officers a 1.5% increase in pay, would cause our officers to make less money annually.”
Village Public Information Officer Joe LaMargo did not have information on whether other employees are using comp time, and why they are still doing so, as of Wednesday evening.
“The Village is currently in interest arbitration proceedings with MAP, and these proceedings were initiated by MAP,” LaMargo wrote in an email. “The Village does not believe that it is productive to bargain through the media, and the arbitrator explicitly requested that both parties refrain from negotiating in public during this period of arbitration. As such, the Village will provide no further comment at this time.”
In February, Village Manager Paul Grimes said the proposals for health care coverage costs was similar to all other village employees.
“We want our employees to have more skin in the game regarding health care,” Grimes said in February. “That’s the same position we have for everyone. We want to get back to the bargaining table. We think we can get to an agreement. We’re getting to agreements with our other bargaining units.”
Ahrendt also referenced the Ninety Seven Fifty on the Park project, the approved property tax rebate, bond refunding and credit ratings as signs that the village should be on sure enough financial foot to negotiate.
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