SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Labor Relations Board has ruled the Village of Oak Lawn can talk with the union representing its firefighters about establishing a rule requiring the village's firefighters to live within 50 miles of Oak Lawn.

Under Oak Lawn’s collective bargaining agreement proposal, firefighters would be required to live within 50 miles of the village. Meanwhile, the union, Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association Local 3405, IAFF, asked the ILRB to rule that the residency requirement does not need to be part of the contract negotiations.

“We are currently in interest arbitration with our local firefighters,” Village of Oak Lawn Manager Larry R. Deetjen told the Cook County Record

Steven Bierig was chosen by the parties as the interest arbitrator.

The most recent Oak Lawn firefighters’ collective bargaining agreements expired on Dec. 31, 2014. The union submitted a proposal in the new contract negotiations that would “maintain the status quo with respect to residency.” Under the previous contract there was no residency requirement for firefighters.

In addition to the requirement that all bargaining unit members establish residency within 50 miles of the village within six months of a probation period for new hires and within six months of the issuance of an interest arbitration award for other union members, Oak Lawn’s proposal would require firefighters to live within the state of Illinois.

The village’s proposed residency requirement would be a condition of employment, and “failure to comply with this residency shall be cause for discipline,” the proposal says.

“(We will) comment after (the arbitrator’s) decision on the matter is rendered, as it is on his review and decision list of issues,” Deetjen said.

The ILRB ruled that the village’s proposal “is not an illegal subject of bargaining” because it does not violate the state’s Municipal Code. The ILRB said the Municipal Code prohibits a municipality from establishing residency requirements that are more restrictive than those that are already in effect when a firefighter begins to work for the department. Since there has never been a residency requirement in previous bargaining agreements, the ILRB said the village’s proposal cannot be viewed as a previous requirement.

In addition, the ILRB said Oak Lawn’s proposal does not require the union to waive its statutory rights under the Municipal Code because the proposal is consistent with the village’s obligations under the code.

The ILRB said the union’s proposal that would allow firefighters to live outside of Illinois is also a permitted bargaining point because Illinois law excludes it from an interest arbitrator’s award. According to the ruling, if the arbitrator awarded the union’s proposal, the resulting firefighters' contract would contain no restriction on residency at all.

“The absence of any restriction on residency is, in turn, a grant of permission to firefighters allowing them to live outside of Illinois,” the ILRB said.

The ILRB also said the union does not claim that the parties bargained over whether to include or leave out a residency requirement in negotiating any of their previous contracts.

“(Oak Lawn) will certainly respect the decision of the Illinois Labor Relations Board and its general counsel, as well as the arbitrator,” Deetjen said.

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