Kane probation officers, youth counselors could strike
The people in charge of keeping tabs on Kane County's convicted criminals and counseling troubled local youths will strike in less than a week unless a resolution emerges to stalled union contract negotiations.
Teamsters Local Union No. 330 officials announced Friday the 116 members of the probation officers and youth counselors bargaining unit voted to reject the latest contract offer by Kane County's court system. The law requires a five-day notice of intent to strike.
The announcement comes one day after Sheriff Don Kramer shared concerns about court security officers walking off the job because of an impasse in contract negotiations. The Teamsters represent both bargaining units.
Union President Dominic Romanazzi said the probation officers and youth counselors -- who work at the Juvenile Justice Center -- rejected the court's latest offer because it represents a big step backward from the contract that expired in November. Members of the union want to lock in a long-term extension matching many of the parameters of the old contract.
That old deal included 1 percent pay raises each year on top of 2.7 percent pay increases for employees moving up to the next salary step. That's a total possible pay increase of 3.7 percent in one year.
Romanazzi said the court's deal envisioned smaller annual raises and freezing workers at their current salary steps for the next three years. It takes about 15 years before probation officers and youth counselors can reach the top of the pay scale.
"These are highly trained, college-educated professionals responsible for keeping track of thousands of offenders, including some on probation for felonies including sex offenses and domestic violence," Romanazzi said in a written statement. "The court's offer does not acknowledge either the reasonableness of our members' demands or the importance to the public of ensuring these professionals are appropriately compensated for their critical work."
David Heilmann, who represents the county court in the negotiations, said there is no question the 116 employees serve important functions. He believes the county demonstrated that belief by working with the union to avoid layoffs during budget talks last year.
Despite several offers, Heilmann said, the union members insist on receiving minimum annual raises of 3.7 percent for at least the next 11 years.
"Every working person would like to make more money, but as a public employer we have to strike a fair balance between the needs of the public, who is paying for these contracts, and the needs of hardworking employees."
Heilmann said the county has a duty to provide court services even if the officers and counselors strike.