Labor board denies Woodstock's request in dispute with union

WOODSTOCK – The Illinois Labor Relations Board has denied Woodstock's request to defer to arbitration a dispute with the union that represents public works employees.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed the complaint in December, alleging that the city violated Illinois labor law by discussing health care benefits with public works employees without notifying the union.

In May, the city entered a motion to defer the case to arbitration. The labor board denied the request last week. It's likely headed to a hearing in front of the labor board later this summer, said Ed Maher, Local 150 spokesman, but a date hasn't been set.

Both sides say they are willing to settle, but that the other side has been unwilling to compromise.

"It'll go to a hearing," Woodstock Human Resource Director Deborah Schober said. "The union has explicitly stated they have no interest in settling."

Maher said otherwise, and that the union is open to settling if the city would agree to bring public works employees onto the union-sponsored health plan, he said.

"The town has been vehemently opposed to that," he said. "And as long as they continue to fight it, we'll be there stating our case."

City officials have said that their attempts to bargain over insurance have been stymied by the union's insistence on pushing their own plan.

Local 150's original complaint alleges Schober held a meeting on Nov. 8 to tell public works employees that their health insurance coverage was changing and that benefits would be reduced. Such a meeting would have required that the city notified the union, the complaint says.

Woodstock's response says the meeting was held by an employee, and that Schober "offered to assist."

The union is filing a separate grievance that states Woodstock violated the bargaining agreement by reducing public works employees' benefits, Maher said.

The employees were moved back to the previous plan after union representatives pointed out the contract stipulation, City Manager Roscoe Stelford has said.

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