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updated: 7/27/2011 6:00 PM

DuPage police union gets first contract, 2% raises

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Union officials in DuPage County have claimed victory over Sheriff John Zaruba and former county board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom after they negotiated their first union contract.

Joe Andalina, president of Bolingbrook-based Metropolitan Alliance of Police, on Wednesday charged that the two failed in their "obstructionist" efforts to block the union and that they "have the taint of wasted taxpayer money as their legacy and on their hands."

The union represents about 180 deputies and detectives who work patrol and court duties. In the contract, officers will receive 2 percent raises each of the next four years. Additionally, most will receive either a $500 bonus or a 2 percent step increase, effective immediately, in order to avoid implementing the agreement retroactive to last December.

Andalina said the contract also helps the officers avoid preferential treatment in disciplinary cases by laying out procedures that must be followed.

"You had a completely demoralized, irritable group of people that felt unappreciated," he said. "The value of the union is it gives the deputies a voice."

The raises will be given on top of already-scheduled 2 percent step increases each year, although DuPage County Board member John Curran said most of the group does not qualify for step increases because of their tenure.

The contract runs through Nov. 30, 2015, and is retroactive to June 1. Schillerstrom and Zaruba did not return calls seeking comment.

Since as far back as the late 1990s, segments of the sheriff's deputies in DuPage County have pursued unionization. But those efforts were vigorously fought by the Schillerstrom-led board and Zaruba, who initially raised objections that the union did not include corrections officers.

The battles led all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, and Andalina said the complaints were merely ways to keep a union out of the department.

"They just kept fighting over garbage," Andalina said, noting that Zaruba's objections came after previous efforts to unionize failed because corrections officers voted 'No.' "They acted like a bunch of children that wanted to take their toys and go home."

Andalina praised the current board for working out the deal. Andalina said the union has been in its present stage, without corrections officers, since about 2006. Efforts to unionize corrections officers in a separate union could be voted on this year, Curran said.

As for the contract, Curran, who chairs the county's collective bargaining subcommittee, said Zaruba's office negotiated most of the contract but financial terms were handled by a negotiator on behalf of the county board. Health insurance will be provided to the officers at the same rates and terms as other county employees.

"Having all employees lumped together under one health care plan is the best in terms of efficiency," Curran said. "If we had different health plans, we would be looking at some unnecessary overhead."

The contract establishes minimum salaries for deputies in their first year as part of the union at $48,060. Each year for the life of the contract, any officer with less than 17 years experience will receive a 2 percent step increase Dec. 1. These would be paired with the 2 percent raises negotiated by the union, meaning each year some union members would receive 4 percent increases.