The union representing Evanston police is no longer in talks with the City to accept salary concessions that officials have pressed as necessary because of revenue losses due to the novel coronavirus.

The Patrol Unit of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, which represents close to 180 Evanston Police Department employees, made an offer to the City about two weeks ago. The offer included having officers move permanently to 12-hour shifts y in 2021– a change that would produce significant savings for the City in its overtime costs, said Kimkea Harris, attorney for the FOP, when asked about the status of the talks.

The FOP also represents the Sergeants unit, where no agreement has been announced.

The union also offered to forgo payments received through a fitness incentive program and agreed to consider a retirement incentive program offer from the City designed to appeal to senior officers at the top end of wage scale to consider, producing further savings, Ms. Harris said.

She said the union decided to no longer continue talks, though, since City did not budge from a zero-percent wage increase for 2021 and 2022.

“As of now I would characterize it as we no longer are negotiating with the City,” she said on Oct. 5.

Asked about where negotiations stand, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie left room for a resolution “I remain optimistic that discussions will continue with our police unions,” she said in response to an email, inquiring about the status of the talks. “It has been a challenging year for all parties, and I know our officers understand the catastrophic nature of the pandemic on City finances.

“I will continue to seek creative ideas from the police unions,” she said, “and I remain hopeful that we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement over the course of the next six months.”

Previously, members of the City’s local unions – the FOP, Evanston Fire Association Local 742, and AFSCME Council 31– had signed off on four-year contracts in 2019 that called for a zero-percent wage increase that year, followed by increases of 1.5%, 2.5% and 3%.

At the time, more than a year before the pandemic, City officials noted that “the union’s agreement for zero-percent increase in 2019 and a low wage increase in 2020 “will give the City the ability to significantly reduce and anticipate salary expenses to improve its financial situation.”

With a projected shortfall of $12 million tied to loss of revenues due to the pandemic, officials sought agreements with employee unions to reach greater savings.

 Earlier this year, both non-union employees and AFCME, which represents employees in public works, the library and other areas, agreed to implement furlough days, producing savings estimated at $630,000 and $900,000.

Officials recently announced they had reached an agreement on concessions with the firefighters unit, with firefighters agreeing to scale back to zero-percent wage increases in 2021 and 2022, followed by a 5% bump the following year.

In the case of police, the union proposed the move to 12-hour shifts and was open to other changes in lieu of agreeing to another round of zero-percent increases, Ms. Harris said.

“The members decided they were not willing to give up the raises,” Ms. Harris said. “We believe those raises were negotiated fairly. We worked with the City [in 2019] when they said they said they had economic issues and gave us zero [percent] at the time.”

Since then, “they have worked from home, we have worked in the pandemic when the City had months of protests. Our officers have been on the job every day.”

International Association of Firefighters Local 742, the local firefighters union, took a different tact in their negotiations, signing off on the zero wage increases but obtaining agreement from officials there would be no reduction in current staffing levels.

IAFF Local 742 agreed to amend the collective bargaining agreement, accepting zero percent wage increases in 2021 and 2022, stepping back from the 2.25% increases they were supposed to receive those years.

Under the agreement, firefighters would receive a salary adjustment of 5% on Dec. 31, 2022 in the third year of the contract.

As part of the revised agreement, firefighters were able to obtain a promise of no reduction in their current operational deployment model, maintaining staffing levels of 26 firefighter-personnel per shift “sufficient to ensure that companies responding to emergency calls have the staffing necessary to be effective and respond within the department’s average response time.”

The agreement does carry a provision that allows City officials to move forward 

in the event the City believes changes in present staffing levels are necessitated by changed circumstances.

In such a case, officials would have to notify the union of the reasons and if the parties could not come to an agreement would then allow either to take their case to arbitration.

Firefighter negotiators reportedly came back to the negotiating table and pressed for the staffing level assurance after City officials served notice they would lay off three firefighters if an agreement on contract concessions was not reached, sources said.


Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.