Fox River Grove is using mediation to negotiate a new contract with members of its police union, which also filed a charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board against the village earlier this summer claiming unfair labor practices.
The current contract for the department's eight officers, all represented by the Illinois Council of Police, expired in May, said trustee Steve Knar, who is on the village's negotiating team.
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"We negotiated into August, then they requested we go to mediation. We started mediation last month," Knar said. Another mediation session is scheduled for Tuesday.
The village eliminated two full-time positions from this year's budget after two officers retired last year, and added two part-time positions at a savings of about $80,000, Police Chief Ron Lukasik said. One part-time officer is already on the job, and another is in training, he said.
The police department has been challenged because one of its officers is relegated to light duty because of an injury, Knar said. "We're struggling a bit right now, but it's not undermining our level of coverage," he said.
In its July charge, the police union claims Fox River Grove violated Illinois labor law when it replaced full-time officers with part-time officers. The police union informed the village of its position before the hiring decision was made, said Norm Frese, ICOP's president.
"When towns try to put in part-timers because of the economy, we demand that they follow the law and that they have the full-timers put in place," he said. "It's very rare. Most of the time (municipalities) abide by the rules. Fox River Grove doesn't seem to want to."
However, the part-time officers in Fox River Grove fill in when full-time officers take comp time, sick leave or vacation days, Knar said. "It's true, you can't fire a guy and bring in three part-timers to work his shift. That's exactly what we haven't done," he said.
Knar said he hopes the labor board matter will be resolved in tandem with successful contract negotiations.
No formal action has been taken yet on the charge, which was assigned to an investigator, ILRB Executive Director John Brosnan said.