DECATUR — The union that represents Decatur police officers has reached a tentative agreement with the city after more than three years with no labor contract, with the Decatur City Council set to vote on the deal Monday.
But the biggest sticking point — whether new hires must live in city limits for five years — remains unresolved. That issue will be decided by the Illinois Labor Relations Board in arbitration proceedings.
The new contract with the union, called the Policemen's Benevolent and Protective Association Unit 39, covers everything else: working conditions, including salaries, training, hours, uniforms, equipment, sick leave and vacations. Officers have been working under terms of the last three-year agreement, a 52-page document that ended May 1, 2015.
"We're excited that we've reached this point," Interim City Manager Billy Tyus said Thursday evening. Should the council approve the agreement, "the men and women of the Decatur police get the financial incentives and raises that they've been going without for some time, and that matters."
A lot of people worked very hard to get to this point, he said, including police representatives and administration, city staff and former City Manager Tim Gleason, who left his position in July to become Bloomington city manager.
Tyus said no date has been set for the arbitration proceedings on the remaining issue.
Shane Voyles, the attorney that has represented the Decatur police union throughout negotiations, was not immediately available for comment.
The agreement before the council would span four years, eight months, and includes provisions for a higher cap in health care premium contributions; a change in the process for promotions to sergeant; voluntary cashing out of unused holidays; and the possibility of random drug testing.
Salary increases in the agreement are:
- 2 percent in the first year;
- 1.5 percent the second year;
- 2.25 percent the third and fourth year.
- 2.5 percent for the remaining length of the contract.
The city had allowed for $1.25 million in police back pay during its 2018 budget process.
Voyles said earlier this year that the proposed requirement for new officers to live in the city was the biggest hangup, citing the quality of housing and public schools as chief among the reasons.
The most recent contract requires officers hired before May 1, 2013, to live within 40 miles of Decatur, and those hired after that date to live in Macon County or any municipality that extends into Macon County. Officers employed before 1997 do not have to comply.
In April, the police union rejected an offer from city officials that new police hires would receive an additional 0.5 percent pay raise in exchange for adhering to the requirement to live in city limits for the first five years on the job. The counteroffer from the police union would have made that pay increase an option for new officers rather than a mandate.
"Those that do not (agree to live in the city), will earn less, saving the city money," Voyles said in an email to the Herald & Review in April. "If the city is truly concerned about saving money, it should accept that proposal."
Decatur officials have successfully negotiated residency requirements with all city employees except police.
Because police can’t strike, state law creates another process for them to follow in order to challenge negotiations with their employer. The two sides take their case to a neutral third party for what is called “interest arbitration.”
The arbitrator sits on a panel that also includes one person representing each side. The panel decides which side will get its way in the new contract, or it can rule that things should stay the same.