After the Village of Forest Park won every contested issue before a federal arbitrator, the village board unanimously approved a new three-year contract with its police patrol officers and sergeants at Monday night’s village council meeting. 

The new contract gives patrol officers and sergeants raises of 1 percent in the first year of the contract, 1.25 percent in the second year, and 2 percent in the third year of the contract. Patrol officers and sergeants have been working without a contract since May 1, 2012 and the raises for 2012 and 2013 will be paid out retroactively.

Police officers will also receive an additional 1-percent wage increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013 in return for contributing more for their health insurance.  Under the new contract police officers will contribute 15 percent of the health insurance premiums for a HMO plan and 17 percent of the premiums for a PPO plan. Under the old contract police officers contributed 10 percent of premiums for a HMO plan and 12 percent for a PPO plan. 

The federal arbitrator ruled that the additional one-percent pay increase adequately compensates officers for the increase in their health insurance premiums. 

The village government and police officers could not reach an agreement after negotiating on their own and when they reached an impasse they took their dispute on four issues, including wages, to a federal arbitrator. Arbitrator Robert Perkovich ruled in favor of the village on all four issues, a rare occurrence according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.

Under the interest method of arbitration used, both sides present their proposals and arguments to the arbitrator on each contested issue and then the arbitrator must pick one proposal or the other.

The four issues that were arbitrated were wages, health insurance, uniform allowance and longevity increases.

On wages, the union’s final offer had been increases of 2 percent in 2012, 2.25 percent in 2013 and 2.5 percent in 2014. 

Perkovich also ruled in favor of the village on longevity increases saying that the village’s offer of a 4.5 percent increase for those officers with more than 25 years of service in the first two years of the contract matched what the firefighters union had agreed to. The police officers, represented by the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, had proposed 8.5 percent annual increases over the life of the contract for officers with more than 25 years on the job.

The police ended up with basically the same contract the firefighters had agreed to a couple of years ago without going to arbitration according to village attorney Mike Durkin who represented the village before the arbitrator. 

The arbitrator also ruled in favor of the village on a uniform allowance issue. Under the old contract the village had been paying a $400 uniform allowance for all patrol officers but also was paying an extra $500 or $700 to tactical officers and detectives respectively because those officers were required to wear a shirt and tie and a sport coat while on duty. However in 2009 the department changed its policy to require detectives and tactical officers to wear polo shirts provided by the village. The union wanted to retain the existing clothing allowance arguing that the department could go back to the old policy of requiring a coat and tie at any time. But Perkovich ruled in favor the village’s proposal to eliminate the extra allowance for detectives and tactical officers saying that if the department changed its policy the union could demand bargaining over the change.

Mayor Anthony Calderone was happy to finally have the police contract finished. 

“I’m glad it’s concluded,” Calderone said.