The Village of Oak Park reached agreement with Teamsters Local 705 last week on a contract that gives retroactive pay raises to 18 streets and sanitation employees stretching back to April 2004.

The deal was narrowly approved by the Teamsters in a 9-7 vote, in part because the new contract cuts in half the number of sick days given to employees annually to 35.

“It came down to the last vote,” said Scott Brinkman, a senior sign technician and union steward. “It was a close one.”

The board approved the deal 7-0 last Wednesday night after a closed-door meeting to finalize the details.

Because the deal extends only through part of 2008, the two sides will be back at the negotiating table next year.

“We’ve been able to bring the sick leave award down in order to take the first step toward bringing it in alignment with the sick leave provisions that apply to other village employees,” Village President David Pope said Friday. Pope said other village employees get approximately one-third of the sick days that the Teamsters have in their new contract.

Brinkman said getting the equivalent of 13 weeks worth of sick time each year “wasn’t a Teamsters thing.” Other unions at village hall-and at other nearby municipalities-used to get the same amount, he said.

“I think that both sides are satisfied that there is an appropriate interim step in making revisions to that provision and others,” Pope said.

Retroactive salary increases for 2005 and 2006 are 3 percent each year in the contract. Salaries will increase 2.5 percent next year.

Brinkman was pleased with the salary increases, especially because disparities between employees in the same categories were ended, which brought up some workers’ salaries more than the raise amounts.

The retro pay will come as one lump sum, plus hourly increases of as much as $3.50 an hour, Brinkman said.

Pope said that, generally, the village hopes to remain competitive with its salaries while being “sensitive to the tax burden people in the community are feeling.”

Brinkman was also happy that the village split the increase in health benefit costs with the union, and that workers will get all but three months of retro pay.

Some members were not happy about the loss of the Teamsters’ four-day workweek, though, Brinkman said.

“Personally I thought that was the greatest thing in the world,” Brinkman said. The change to a five-day week will begin April 2.

Although the new contract was a long time coming, Pope said he believes “there is a strong sentiment on the board that we should get back to the practice of negotiating successor contracts previous to the expiration of existing contracts.”

Brinkman praised the participation of new Village Manager Tom Barwin in the negotiations process. “He really had a lot to do with breaking the impasse in this contract.”

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

Municipal electric rates well above

ComEd rate hikes made headlines last week for hiking residential electricity rates 22 percent next year.

The Village of Oak Park would love to pay a 22 percent rate increase. ComEd’s rates are rising 41 percent in 2007, the village said.

Because the village switched energy providers, though, its has locked in a price that’s just 30 percent more than last year’s rate.

This year, the village ran it’s electric bill up to $234,589. Next year the bill is expected to reach $305,852, according to a village document.

-Drew Carter

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