After two years, 911 operators get new contract

News-DemocratJanuary 1, 2014 

After years of negotiations and legal actions, St. Clair County reached a contract with its emergency dispatchers.

Negotiations began in 2011 between county officials and the dispatchers' union. The key sticking point was dispatchers' belief they were not rewarded for on-the-job experience at CENCOM, the 911 answering service based at the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.

The County Board unanimously approved a contract with the dispatchers union, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, through 2014. The previous contract for the dozen dispatchers expired in January 2012.

The dispatchers argued a lack of pay raises caused many dispatchers to leave CENCOM after a short time for more lucrative jobs in the metro-east. The dispatchers union representative, James Daniels, could not be reached for comment.

The new contract guarantees the dispatchers retroactive pay increases of 1 percent in 2011, 2.25 percent in 2012, 2.5 percent in 2013. The dispatchers will receive a 1.5 percent pay raise in 2014.

The contract also stipulates employees who leave CENCOM within three years must reimburse the county a percentage of their training cost.

For example, employees must reimburse the county 75 percent of their "provable training cost" if they quit in their first year. Employees leaving within two years must reimburse the county 50 percent of the costs, and within three years must reimburse the county 25 percent of the costs.

County Administrator Dan Maher said the pay increase was the same as other county employees received.

"This is the same dollar amount in terms of salary as all other employees agreed to for the past few years," Maher said.

In October, an arbitrator issued a judgment setting the pay increases for the county's corrections officers up to 1 percent higher than those received in the dispatchers contract. The corrections officers work at the St. Clair County Jail and are separate bargaining unit than sheriff's deputies.

The contract between county officials and corrections officers had expired in 2011. The jail guards are also represented by the Fraternal Order of Police.

The arbitrator ruled in favor of the corrections officers' proposal for pay increases. The officers received retroactive increases of 2 percent in 2012, 2.25 percent in 2013, and will receive a 2.5 percent increase in 2014.

The dispatchers contract also increases the annual pay for an entry-level position from about $36,400 to $39,458.

Entry-level dispatchers at some other departments in the metro-east often earn more pay. For example, new dispatchers in Collinsville earn about $50,000.

The contract also includes 13 paid holidays, plus a paid day off on general election days in November in even numbered years.

Dispatchers earn vacation according to the years served at CENCOM, according to the contract. Those with up to 5 years experience earn two weeks vacation, between 5 and 10 years experience earn three weeks, and those with 12 or more years at the dispatching service earn four weeks.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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