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Court security officers poised for strike

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – Those who guard the front doors at Kane County’s courthouses soon could walk off the job, on strike, as they and the county government continue to struggle to reach agreement on the terms of a new contract.

Late last week, members of the union representing Kane’s courthouse security officers rejected the latest contract offer from Kane County’s government.

Tim O’Neil, a lawyer representing the 32 Kane courthouse security officers and the union, the Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee, said the Thursday vote was “an insult.”

A strike was authorized weeks ago, and O’Neil said the union does not intend to make a counteroffer. Should nothing change, O’Neil said the officers could strike in coming days.

“If I had to bet on it, I would say, yes, and I would say very soon,” O’Neil said.

The officers and the county government have been locked in contentious talks for years. The officers have worked without a contract since 2008. The union has taken the matter to labor officials and to court.

O’Neil has noted that Kane’s courthouse officers are the lowest paid courthouse security personnel in the Chicago area, with annual wages ranging from $25,000 to $34,000, despite the life-and-death risks the officers must encounter daily.

O’Neil said the county’s latest offer – which he said county negotiators characterized as the county’s “last, best offer” – would have only slightly increased the officers’ wages.

He said the officers’ union last presented the county with an offer two weeks ago.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez said he would not characterize the county’s latest offer as its “last and best.” He said he still believes an agreement could be reached without a strike.

“I think cooler heads have to prevail,” Perez said. “We have to look at what the market provides, and what’s fair.

“But I don’t think we’re that far apart.”

Perez has said the county has crafted plans to keep the courthouses in Geneva, St. Charles, Elgin, Aurora and Carpentersville open, even amid a strike.

Unlike patrol officers or correctional officers, courthouse security officers are considered less essential for public safety and are allowed by law to strike, should contract talks fail.

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