Judge denies Elgin fire union's push to delay staffing changes
A Kane County judge has denied the Elgin fire union's request to put a new city staffing plan, which officials estimate would save $750,000 a year, on hold until an arbitrator ruled on it.
The decision clears the way for the city to reduce minimum citywide staffing from 33 to 31 union firefighters at any given time, a shift that was enacted Thursday morning.
Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said the department had been ready to make the move. "We held off from making the changes until this situation worked itself out," he said.
In order for Judge David Akemann to have granted the injunction for the International Association of Firefighters Local 439, he would have had to find that the union had a clear right that needed protecting, would suffer irreparable harm if the change were enacted, had no adequate remedy under law, and was likely to be successful on the merits of the action.
"The plaintiff has not shown irreparable injury that would necessitate the intervention of this court with injunctive relief in the arbitration process that was bargained for between the parties and is contained in their collective bargaining agreement," Akemann wrote.
Akemann did not rule on the merits of the city's plan, only the request for an injunction. An arbitrator will hear the matter later this year and make a binding ruling.
William Cogley, corporation counsel for the city, said the changes were implemented "immediately."
Union officials opposed the city's plan, arguing in court last week that more -- not fewer -- firefighters are needed to ensure response times and reduce mandatory overtime. The union contends that a change would put firefighters and the public at risk, as well as increase Elgin's reliance on mutual aid from other departments.
City attorneys argued that the changes were needed to increase ambulance services and would not result in any layoffs.
• Daily Herald staff writer Elena Ferrarin contributed to this story.