Dispatch strike averted; 5-year contract reached
The Northwest Central Dispatch System and the union representing its dispatchers reached agreement on a five-year contract at about 1 a.m. Thursday, averting a strike that could have started after 5 p.m. that same day.
Dispatch center management and representatives of Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 540 met with a mediator for about 11 hours Wednesday and into Thursday, before announcing they had a tentative agreement.
The parties agreed on raises that amount to 8.25 percent over five years, said Rick Tracy, a member of the MAP executive board. That's slightly under the 2 percent annually that the union wanted.
This is the first collective bargaining agreement since the dispatchers organized. It is retroactive to 2009 when negotiations first began, and the 67 employees will get retroactive raises.
The contract will be renegotiated in three years.
Union members will vote on the contract in a few weeks, said Tracy. If they accept it, the dispatch system board will vote.
Seven noneconomic issues -- such as how many people can be on vacation at once and how long in advance it needs to be scheduled, as well as issues around voluntary overtime -- will be turned over to an arbitrator and accepted as part of the contract once they are decided, said Tracy.
Ken Fritz, chairman of the system's board, said he did not believe the strike threat brought about a settlement.
"The strike threat had everything to do with the settlement," he said. "Up until this point we probably agreed on 60 to 70 percent of the stuff, and management had no desire to settle anything else."
After the strike vote, management came back with an offer the union could work with, he said.
The union accepted the board's offer of wages and insurance, said Tracy, saying the system could change its insurance as long as coverage stays reasonably the same.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Northwest Central describes the agreement as "a fair proposal that reflects our commitment to our employees and our obligation to provide a vital service at a reasonable cost to taxpayers."
"A strike would have benefited no one, namely the residents we serve 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the statement continues. "We can now resume operations with our sole focus on providing top-quality 911 service to the residents of the 11 communities we serve."
Tracy had pledged the union would give management several hours' notice before a walkout took place, so NWCD could get their backup dispatchers in place. The union also said they would not have walked out in the middle of an emergency call.
The union sent what it called a final counterproposal to the board late last Thursday. Management's response Tuesday night prompted Wednesday's long session.
The current starting salary for a dispatcher is $44,745, the median salary is $66,500 and the maximum salary is $70,595, according to figures provided by Fritz, who is also Schaumburg's village manager.
Northwest Central Dispatch System handles emergency calls for Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and Streamwood, plus the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District and the Prospect Heights Police Department.