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Strike a ‘distinct possibility’ for Kane County court security officers

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 6:18 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – The officers who provide security at Kane County’s courthouses could strike soon if contract talks between the county government and the officers’ union drag on too much longer.

Tuesday, representatives of the county and the Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee, the union representing 32 of Kane’s courthouse security officers, met to continue contract talks that have been the source of contention between the security officers and county officials for years.

The officers have worked without a contract since 2008. In the years since, the union has taken the matter to labor officials and court.

Tim O’Neil, a lawyer representing the union in the talks, said the Kane County courthouse officers are the lowest paid courthouse security personnel in the Chicago area, with annual wages ranging from $25,000 to $34,000.

He said that is 20 percent less than the next lowest paid county courthouse security officers, those in McHenry County, whose annual wages start at $41,000.

“These are the guys we’re expecting to provide security for our judges, prosecutors, lawyers and everyone else who uses the courthouse,” O’Neil said. “They’re supposed to take a bullet, if necessary.”

After failing to reach a contract agreement last month, the union last week authorized a strike and delivered a five-day intent to strike notice to the County Board and Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, whose office oversees and coordinates courthouse security.

Perez confirmed he had received the notice.

With the five days of notice now lapsed, the union is free to strike, O’Neil said.

Under Illinois law, police officers and prison correctional officers are not allowed to strike because they are considered essential to public safety. Courthouse security officers, however, are allowed to strike.

Perez and O’Neil do not want a strike. But Perez said his office has prepared a contingency plan to provide security at the county’s courthouses in Geneva, St. Charles, Elgin, Aurora and Carpentersville, should the union take to the picket line.

Perez said he remained “optimistic” that the two sides could reach an agreement, and he believed the parties were close to an agreement.

O’Neil did not believe an agreement was near.

“I can’t say that, no,” he said.

He said a strike remains “a very distinct possibility” as the union awaits another offer from the county.

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