The saga that is North Riverside’s relationship to its firefighters and contracted paramedics is an epic fail. We’re five years out from an actual contract between the village government and the unionized firefighters. Toss in the mountain of legal bills and the string of failures every time the village makes it to court or arbitration and you have to wonder what went wrong with common sense and compromise.
And, of course, the firefighters are not blameless in this mess either.
Maybe there is a small opening, though that opening seems to come with a long wide-open window. In November a majority of the village board seemed to agree to extend for five years an updated contract with Paramedic Services of Illinois to continue to provide paramedic services. That pact came with a promise that the village will engage in serious review of a proposal from Local 2714 to begin hiring permanent full- and part-time paramedics and gradually diminish reliance on contract hires through PSI.
Fire Chief John Kiser, who is wary of the constant carousel of PSI part-timers filling shifts, prudently suggests a task force of village staff, elected officials and firefighters to study this idea. We agree that getting all parties around a table is a good start for multiple reasons.
But first … first there has got to be a new contract with firefighters. There is no innovative, acceptable path forward so long as these unionized village employees are without a contract. We’d hope that, with frustration deep on both sides and an agreement to study the union proposal on paramedics, this could be the moment to compromise and settle this contract.
There won’t be a better time.