Village Manager Larry Deetjen, who has been cited in the past for his linguistic skill at talking a lot without saying much has done it again. In fact, he’s so skilled at the art of speaking long without ever saying anything that we once coined his speaking as its own language: Deetjenese.
At the most recent village board meeting, Deetjenese was once again in the spotlight as he proudly announced that the village had reached an agreement with the Public Works employees, represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
Deetjen claimed that there was no wage increase for the workers for the entire four year agreement. Except there is a wage increase because the union workers will be receiving a cost of living adjustment. “During the life of the agreement, adjusted for inflation, there is no wage increase”.
In the English language, a cost of living increase is a wage increase. Employment contracts, pension funds and even social security benefits are generally all tied to a cost of living index that adjusts salaries upward annually. During the last four years, the annual cost of living adjustments have been 3.0, 1.7, 1.5, and 0.8 according to government numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistic.
Deetjen also said that the contract includes a movement “toward sharing more on the employee side in the cost of health insurance”. He said that as times have changed, employees have saw fit to make adjustments to share a higher proportion in the costs.
In announcing the good news, Deetjen couldn’t help taking a shot at the Oak Lawn firefighters union noting that the contract does not include any manning provisions or any fixed language that would preclude management from making adjustments in the hours and shifts of employees. The village, under Deetjen’s leadership, has engaged in a long and costly battle over the issue of minimum manning with the firefighters, who are protected both contractually and through state law.
The ability to change the schedule of union employees was hailed by Deetjen as a compromise by the union and management. Mayor Sandra Bury and her board majority have come under criticism for failing to properly clear the streets of snow during the winter as they refused to allow public works employees to work overtime.
Deetjen also said the contract includes a provision that allows the village to outsource the snowplowing for seven municipal parking lots that he said primarily benefit individual businesses. One such lot is located immediately behind BJ McMahon’s, a local bar owned by Roger Benson, an outspoken supporter of Mayor Bury and Trustee Alex Olejniczak. Benson is a former Township Clerk who was defeated in his re-election effort in 2013 based on criticism of his office’s transparency efforts. Those lots will now be plowed by private companies rather than village workers.
Deetjen acknowledged that the department has been short staffed since January 2015 when the contract expired. No vacancies have been filled since the previous contract expired.