The Evanston City Council is scheduled to vote on a new contract with its firefighters union tonight that will make it difficult for the council to reduce fire staffing in next year’s budget.

The contract hammered out by city and union negotiators and already ratified by union members doesn’t making staffing levels a permanent subject for collective bargaining — the original demand of the union.

But it does make staffing subject to negotiation and an accellerated arbitration process for the duration of the new contract — which will run through December 2011.

Under the contract terms, it appears it would take a minimum of about two months to work through the process, and, if an arbitrator turned down the city’s proposal, the city would be unable to impose layoffs to balance its budget.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, in a memo to aldermen, says the contract “meets budget expectations” for the current fiscal year with no general pay increase, a suspension of holiday pay and a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums paid by union members.

He says that the second year of the agreement is expected to cost the city less than $150,000 for pay hikes of 2 percent in March and 1 percent in September, partially offset by some holiday pay cuts and health insurance payment increases.

Talks on the contract agreement started last December. They reached an impass over staffing issues in March that led to the layoff of three firefighters, who were reinstated after a tentative agreement on a new contract was reached last month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston Fire Union get what they paid for – job security

    So the city is ready to sign a contract that would prevent it from laying off any firefighter if an arbritator says no.

    In other words, the city is willing to let a third party arbritator decide the city’s fire staffing levels. Why don’t we just fire Wally B and his staff and subcontract out to these arbritators anytime we want to reduce employment. We don’t need Wally B’s services, we have an abritrator.

    Because my friends, next year the tax revenues will even be less than this year, and the city will have to either make more budget cuts or raise taxes once again.

    Everyone on the City Council and the mayor received campaign donations from the Evanston Fire Union. It looks like their money has been well spent because our Council and Mayor are looking out for the best interests of the Evanston Fire Union and not the taxpayers.

    Remember, four years into a Recession and not one Evanston firefighter has been laid off and they still get overtime pay and an annual merit pay increases every year. Imagine if you run a business and you decide to sign a contract to let a third party tell you whether you can layoff your employees. You’d be out of business real fast.

    It’s time to layoff Council  members and the mayor, and give the city back to its citizens.

  2. The power to set staffing

    The power to set staffing levels is quite literally (in most municipalities) the last card the municipality has to play against its voracious public employee unions. Other variables – pay, pension, benefits- are largely off-limits. Only the layoff card can elicit union givebacks (read: deferrence) on occasions of fiscal crisis. Compromise on that: bye-bye, motivation. Our Public Overlords. They must laugh themselves silly at what they have arranged for themselves during the Lost Decade. Truly the heist of the century, in plain sight.

  3. Wally’s Race Against Time

    Wally’s mission now is to find another community to mismanage before his house of cards comes tumbling down in Evanston.   The city government is worse far than it was a year ago.  Morale is down as low as it can go.  Professionals are leaving for better jobs in the private sector and other communities.  The citizens of Evanston will get stuck with the bill for the clean-up for this mess.


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