Senate panel: Mayor, firefighters should bargain over staffing

  • Glenview Fire Chief Wayne Globerger tells reporters at the Illinois Capitol that firefighter staffing levels shouldn't be subject to union talks.

      Glenview Fire Chief Wayne Globerger tells reporters at the Illinois Capitol that firefighter staffing levels shouldn't be subject to union talks. Mike Riopell | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/19/2014 6:37 PM

Firefighters won a round in their recent clash with mayors over whether the two sides should bargain over staffing levels.

It's an issue suburban mayors have been fighting all year. They argue required bargaining over staffing levels could lead to more firefighters and increased costs.

 

But an Illinois Senate panel sided with the state's biggest firefighters union, which says staffing has already been part of such talks for years.

Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney said the proposal, which affects fire departments outside Chicago, is "grossly misunderstood."

Supporters say having a set number of firefighters on call at any time is critical for them to be safe.

The committee sent the proposal to the full Senate for further review.

They approved by a 9-2 vote. From the suburbs, Democratic state Sens. Terry Link of Waukegan and Don Harmon of Oak Park voted for it. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine voted against it.

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Suburban mayors argue letting an arbitrator set staffing levels in negotiations would lead to higher staffing requirements and, therefore, higher costs. Mayors have already been working to cut firefighter pension benefits as rising costs have pinched their budgets.

"It's easy to give stuff to the firefighters because the state doesn't have to pay for it." Carpentersville Mayor Ed Ritter told the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday.

Glenview Fire Chief Wayne Globerger said required bargaining over staffing wouldn't affect safety.

"We're concerned about safety every day, every night," he said.

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