City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says Evanston has yet to reach deals on new contracts with any of its major employee unions.

At this point two years ago, in the last round of contract talks, the city had reached a settlement with AFSCME Local 1891, which represents about 400 city workers, but was embroiled in a heated dispute with the firefighters union, while a settlement with the Teamsters union representing police officers had been imposed by an arbitrator.

Bobkiewicz says the city held its first arbitration session with the firefighters union earlier this month.

Negotiations are underway with AFSCME, Bobkiewicz says, and have yet to begin with the police officers — who have switched representation in the past year from the Teamsters to the Fraternal Order of Police.

Bobkiewicz says the city has budgeted for a two percent increase in employee pay this year and that he hopes to keep contract settlements within the budgeted amount.

Two years ago the agreement with AFSCME called for no pay hike the first year and phased increases of 2 and 1 percent during the second year of the contract.

After Bobkiewicz threatened to lay off three firefighters two years ago, the union tried but failed to persuade the City Council to reverse the layoff decision and eventually agreed to a contract in line with the settlements reached with the other city unions that restored the laid-off workers jobs.

Related stories

No pay raise this year for AFSCME (June 11, 2010)

City sends layoff notices to firefighters (June 16, 2010)

Alderman: Firefighters misjudged council (Jun 17, 2010)

Firefighters hope to reverse layoffs Monday (Jun 18, 2010)

Firefighters say city is ‘unfair’ (June 28, 2010)

Fire union wants arbitrator to set staffing (June 29, 2010)

City, firefighters reach deal (Aug. 21, 2010)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. It’s time to lower taxes!

    Remember way back in 2010 when Evanston firefighter union members went door-to-door passing out fliers that read: STOP the city from putting your life and property IN DANGER! Firefighter layoffs threaten the community safety.

    The city proposed laying off three firefighters so the Evanston Fire Union elicited community support and then sued the city for unfair labor practices.  

    Under the 2010 contract agreement with the Evanston Fire Union, the city rehired the three laid off firefighters and agreed to allow an arbritator to decide any firefighter layoffs through the length of the contract that expired December 2011. 

    So while Evanston relied on a third party arbritator to decide any potential firefighter layoffs (no firefighters have been laid off since the start of the Recession) and gave firefighters a pay raise, the city during that time has raised taxes to double digits.

    In that time, state income taxes more than doubled, fees, fines and water rates went up, we got a new library tax levied by an unelected Library Board, tons of giveaways to private businesses (Trader Joes, Bonnie Investments, the Eighth Ward Wine Bar), an 80 percent increase in the Evanston Township's budget and a 311 Call Center with 20 NEWLY hired union employees. 

    Top that off with the unsustainable public unions pension and a move by Democrat legislators to try and shift the pension burden onto local suburban governments. Has the Council even begun discussion how Evanston government could function if it took on all the pensions costs?

    Remember when the Evanston fire and police chiefs recently retired in their early 50s, earning a six figure annual pension in retirement and then getting another 100k job in similar capacities, earning a chance for another large pension in 10 years? How could Evanston taxpayers afford paying such exorbitant pensions?

    It's time now for firefighter and other government union employee layoffs. It's time to privatize ambulance and garbage services. It's time to close down one of the two Central Street Fire stations.

    I have been banging the same old drum for three years and each year I have predicted correcly (didn't take a rocket scientist) that tax revenue would decline and local government would have to raise taxes if it chose not to make significant layoffs.

    It's time to lower taxes!

    It's time for new aldermen. It's time to hire a new city manager with the courage and commitment to stand up to the unions and negotiate on the TAXPAYER'S behalf.

    The City Council elections are coming soon. We need quality fiscal conservative candidates in Evanston.

    It's time.

  2. Pensions and disability

    Some argue police and firefighers need large pensions because their jobs are dangerous.

    Instead of the usual 'I don't know how to do it so we will use a shotgun approach instead of a rifle approach", Disability and Long Term Disability should cover this danger issue instead of boosting pensions for everyone.

    If the Disability pollicy they currently have does not cover these problems not pensions for everyone.

    Firemen, police and in fact all professsions need to plan for "whats next", i.e. training for management, consulting, or even as some ballpayers do for law, medicine, business, etc..

    We must move to defined contribution which can be tracked, paid for monthly and be transferable instead of defined benefit which paying for can be passed to future generations, don't there at all, 'double/triple" dipped and may not be at needed level if/when the employee changes jobs.

    As it is the cities and even states might default—no matter what the contract or even consitutions say—no money, no benefits.

  3. Questions for City of Evanston

    Everyone wants a bigger paycheck, including me. But the question is, how much can our City afford to pay?

    We need to be fiscally responsible and pay a fair wage and respect our city employees. But we need to ask ourselves how much more in taxes and service fees can people afford to pay? Remember, wage growth for the private sector has been very low for over a decade. So with stagnant wage growth, but rising taxes, more and more people are struggling to pay their bills. Do we want to put further pressure on the middle class and poor of Evanston?

    Another question is how large is the City of Evanston's unfunded Police and Fire Pension Fund? And how much money are we paying into these funds every year?

    Another question is how much money are we paying into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) each and every year to pay for the retirement benefits of our city employees? The IMRF is now underfunded, just go look at their most recent annual report. So does this mean that future payments from the City of Evanston will increase? If so, how much? Are we budgetting for this increase? We should analyze all different scenarios so we don't get surprised?

    What's happening with healthcare costs? Is this fully budgeted for?

    My major point is that Evanston taxpayers are already very stretched with our current tax burden at the City, County, State and Federal level and these taxes are likely going only one direction, UP! So before we commit to increased salaries, let's understand how much we can afford to pay.


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