Wilmette, Illinois Heads into Arbitration with Firefighters over Two-Tier Pay System
A plan by the village of Wilmette, Illinois, to pay non-union firefighters and other employees of its fire department less than employees hired under a previous contract has resulted in a lengthy deadlock in negotiations that is now headed into an arbitration process. The union representing the firefighters and paramedics affected will continue to negotiate with the village while the arbitrator deliberates.
The three-year contract between Wilmette and its firefighters expired in 2014. The village put a lower pay scale into place in 2011, resulting in a two-tier pay system with older employees being paid at a higher rate than newer ones. A similar system was put into place for the police department, and the police union accepted the new pay scale without incident.
However, 33 of the village’s 44 firefighters have refused to accept the new pay scale and argue they should be paid at the same, higher rates as the previous contracted workers. Negotiations have been ongoing since December, 2014 with no progress being made. While the two-tier pay system is not the sole cause for disagreement, it is the most contentious and the issue that is likely holding up the rest of the contract negotiations.
As has happened in previous contract negotiations, the entire fire department including all firefighters and paramedics continues to operate without a contract, responding to calls and being paid under the terms of the previous contract. Both sides of the dispute have agreed not to comment publicly while the arbitration is ongoing.