Police officers who walked off the job in south suburban Robbins will return to work Tuesday as the village and union leaders negotiate the terms of a new contract amid a dispute over pay, working conditions and other issues, the village's mayor said.
At least a dozen officers called out of work from Friday evening through Monday, forcing the village to request assistance from the Cook County Sheriff's Office and other area law enforcement agencies.
Addressing reporters at a news conference, Mayor Darren E. Bryant assured residents their safety is the highest priority and that he's committed to finding a solution to the dispute.
"My administration is determined to bring a resolution to the scenario, he said. "We will get our men and woman back to service."
The current contract between Robbins and the police officers expired in 2020, the mayor said.
According to Richard Blass, an attorney for the union Illinois Council of Police, its representatives initiated efforts to meet with village officials to discuss a new contract in 2019, but village leaders at the time didn't partake in discussions.
As a result, he said, an unfair labor practice was filed, alleging the village violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to negotiate.
"The health safety and welfare of the Robins community and that of my police officers that I represent are of the utmost concern," Blass said. "I feel that we’re going to be able to balance the needs of the police officers to be able to do their job, that I represent, and I'm hopeful that we can sit down and come to an agreement."
Detective Commander Hurman Mathus, the police union president, said one issue was that officers were working with expired vests. But on Monday, funds were provided to the department, allowing Mathus to purchase bulletproof vests for officers.
"Everything went silent, so after everything went silent we made several attempts," Mathus said, explaining the officers' decisions to call out. "We felt that there was nothing else that we can do other than to go this route to see if we can get someone’s attention."
The commander said after officers head back to work tomorrow, "we'll see where it goes from there."
"We still need for the administration to at least show their appreciation, that we are out here, that we are putting our lives on the line, and if we’re gonna put our lives on the line, at least make sure that we’re safe doing it," he said.
Bryant, who was elected mayor earlier this year, said he inherited a number of challenges involving village departments, including the police contract situation.
Negotiations are expected to begin tomorrow morning between the union and village, with both sides hoping for an agreement over issues including working conditions, wages and terms of employment.
"I'm confident now that with a renewed relationship with the new administration, we can move forward," Blass said.