In the wake of the mayor releasing his 2017 fiscal budget, the city’s forthright inspector general attacked the city’s contracts with the police and fire departments as he addressed students at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Joseph Ferguson, in his second term as Chicago’s inspector general, said part of the reason the city is in debt is due to long-term collective bargaining contracts dating back to the Richard M. Daley administration.
The often fiery Ferguson, not afraid to speak out against the mayor and government officials, said the city has bargaining contracts with more than 40 labor unions representing employees including police officers and firefighters that allow tax payers’ money to be used on tuition reimbursement, uniform allowances and fitness memberships.
In the CPD’s collective bargaining agreement, for example, officers have duty availability pay, allowing police officers to be compensated for being called back into work, Ferguson said.
“If a police officer is called back into work, they have to get a least two hours of overtime,” Ferguson said. “A simple 10-minute phone call with an off duty officer results in two hours of overtime.”
One of the most troubling collective bargaining contracts the city has is with the Teamsters, a union the represents a variety of blue collar workers, Ferguson told students. In the contract, the city was obligated to hire two hundred unneeded motorcar drivers, Ferguson said.
“One day, outside of the inspector general’s office, a staff member watched a motor truck driver sit and read a newspaper as another man painted the curb and the sidewalk,” Ferguson said. “This was very interesting, so we started to look at the entire class of motor truck drivers in the city. What we found was the driver wasn’t loafing on the job, he was doing what he was allowed to do under the collective bargaining agreement.”
What the inspector general’s office discovered was that, under the collective bargaining agreement, a driver is not allowed to get out and help the painter and the painter isn’t allowed to drive the truck.
“The city contracted outside entities to perform the same services as city employees at a cheaper rate,” Ferguson said. “In the same situation, a city painter would drive himself to the work site.”
Ferguson said the mayor put a positive spin on the city’s budget Tuesday despite the $137 million operating deficit, not including debt and pension obligations.
“I am concerned that the positive messaging is undercutting the city’s more critical issues,” he said.
City contracts should always allow for innovation and the delivery of services, to make the best use of tax payer money, Ferguson said. Citizens get part of the blame, he said, for not holding their elected leaders accountable; community organizers need to start looking at the abundance of public information available to them.
With the recent police shootings of unarmed civilians in Chicago, CPD has been under much fire due to how the collective barging contracts allow the department to handle misconduct. Officers cannot be investigated without a singed affidavit said Ferguson. It also allows officers who are being investigated to know who and why a complaint was filed.
Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Ferguson is trying to push a certain agenda.
“I am not sure if Mr. Ferguson is aware of the history behind those benefits,” he said. “He has never been involved in any of the nine FOP negotiations and/or processes. Therefore, any of his comments are speculative at best.”
Angelo said the uniform and duty availability pay issue were negotiated and offered as non-pensionable items in lieu of an in-trade salary; a trade off as it were. He also said Chicagoans need to remember each member of the police department must reside in the city limits and are only one of the many city department employees who actually contribute to their own earnings by paying the (if not more at times) taxes.
Dick Simpson, the University of Illinois at Chicago professor and former alderman who welcomed Ferguson to his class, said “renegotiating old collective bargaining agreements from the last ten years is extremely important.”
Simpson went on to reiterate how the contracts with the Teamster’s and police department are draining city funding since Richard M. Daley was mayor.
“The public has been blocked out for decades, so many things have happened behind closed doors,” Simpson said. “We need citizens to participate in our democracy more than ever.”
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