After more than four years working without a contract, officers that provide security for Kane County courthouses could go on strike as early as Wednesday.
The court security officers' union met with county officials late Tuesday, but any resolving of issues was being kept under wraps.
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"These officers start at as little as $25,000 (per year) and they are expected to provide security for everybody in the courthouse," said Tim O'Neil, attorney for the Policeman's Benevolent Labor Committee, which is the formal name of the union. "They are expected to put their lives on the line."
An appellate court ruled that the court security officers are not essential employees like police officers and firefighters, who are prohibited from striking and are eligible for interest arbitration in labor matters.
O'Neil said the union met Jan. 18 and had an affirmative vote on issuing a five-day notice to strike.
That notice, O'Neil said, was presented Jan. 30 to Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez as well as other county officials.
Earlier that day, the county did make an offer but the union rejected it, O'Neil said. Details of the offer were not available.
"I guess we have to look at it as a starting point because it's the first offer we've been given," O'Neil said. "(The union members) are aware that it is very, very short."
O'Neil said officers start at $25,000 and top out at $34,000, which is more than 20 percent less that what officers make in McHenry County, the closest of the collar counties to Kane in terms of salary.
Perez said he could not comment specifically on the county's proposal, but noted that the county must look at the union demands through the prism of what sheriff's deputies and other labor unions received in their last contracts.
"Everyone understands the gravity of the situation," he said.
Perez said he is hopeful an agreement could be reached, but noted that if the security officers went on strike, the sheriff's department has a contingency plan to ensure the courthouse is secure. He declined to elaborate.
"If they make an offer that is palatable, we'll have to take it to our membership," O'Neil said.
The officers provide security for two courthouses in St. Charles, one in Geneva and branch courts in Aurora, Elgin and Carpentersville.