Lombard fire lieutenants look to unionize

Updated 12/12/2012 5:29 PM

Lombard Fire Department lieutenants are seeking to unionize, becoming the fourth employee group in the village to join or form a union within about a year, officials say.

Lieutenants last week sent a letter to Village Manager David Hulseberg saying they intend to join Local 3009 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which already represents the department's firefighters and paramedics.

The fire lieutenants are following police sergeants, non-sworn police personnel and community service officers, and employees from a few smaller departments within village hall in recently joining unions, Hulseberg said.

Now that the lieutenants have announced their intent, meetings can begin to negotiate a merger of their pay and benefits into the Local 3009 contract, which runs until May 31, 2015.

Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing with two of the three other employee groups that recently formed unions.

Hulseberg said the village settled with police sergeants, who joined Lombard Fraternal Order of Police as Lodge 270-1. But contracts are still in the works with community service officers and non-sworn police personnel who joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and with village hall employees who joined Service Employees International Union.

While fire lieutenants were reluctant to speak until they are included in the union's contract, firefighter/paramedic Mike Fetzer of Local 3009 said they are joining because of concerns about the future of their employment.

"It's because of the uncertainty of the state of the village, with the controversy from trustees and threats of bringing in contract paramedics, as well as threats for the lack of replacing fire department personnel," Fetzer said. "The job security is what they were concerned with."

Trustee Bill Ware unsuccessfully pushed last week to hire an additional firefighter to bring the department to 62 of the 63 it is authorized to employ.

"I'm disappointed they feel they need to unionize, but they have to do what they believe is best," Ware said. "Personally, I'm disappointed, but we have to move on and deal with it."

Hulseberg said it is common for lieutenants in other departments to be part of firefighters unions, and Fetzer said some unions even include personnel up to the rank of battalion chief.

Fetzer said the move is not a result of any issues with Chief Paul DiRienzo, who took over in September after the department went seven months without a permanent chief. Lombard's 11 lieutenants are seeking to join 48 members of the fire union and gain a more powerful voice.

"They want to have a say-so," Fetzer said, "in the safety of the fire department and the safety of the citizens."

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