University police seek final decision on wage increase

By Dan Jacobson

Wage negotiations between NIU and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #86, represented by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, have reached a stalemate. To solve the problem, the police union has called in a federal mediator to help resolve the dispute.

NIU Negotiations Representative Gary Smith said a 3.5 percent increase was granted to all university employees July 1 and an additional 1.5 percent will be granted Jan. 1. The dispute arose when the University Police requested a 6 percent increase, larger than the 5 percent being offered by the university.

“The federal mediator will come in and try to bring both parties together and convince one that they are wrong,” Smith said.

Dave Nixon, field representative for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, said the larger wage increase the UPs are asking for stems from the low wages they are already receiving.

“Of all the other state universities in Illinois, NIU’s police are paid the least,” he said. “Other universities have found ways to fund at rates commensurate with the responsibilities of their police. The university (NIU) is saying they don’t have the money. The union is saying find the money.”

Nixon said the base salary for an officer after one year at other state schools ranges from $12.28 to $14.77 an hour. The base pay for the NIU police is $11.53 after one year.

“Each of the other universities seem to have more respect for their officers where at NIU this doesn’t seem to be the case,” he said.

The wages of NIU’s police also is considerably lower than the surrounding city police departments. “The union is aware that the university system is not like a government system and that university police are not going to be paid as high as city police,” he said. “But they have the same powers, responsibilities and duties and they have to pass the same rigid training requirements as any police.”

Telecommunicators, the other position represented by the union, is seeking a pay increase for the starting pay of $8.28 an hour. “A person can make more money going to work sweeping floors for the university than as a starting telecommunicator,” Nixon said.

Nixon said he is not putting down floor sweepers but that telecommunicators have a lot of responsibility. “They must have the ability to make split-second decisions that may involve someone’s life.”

While the union is strongly pressing for an increase, the cards are more in the hands of the university. “Police by state statute do not have the right to strike,” Nixon said.

“The only thing we can do is continue to press our case. We’re not asking for the moon here. These police aren’t being greedy. The 6 percent will not put them on the top of the list (of other state school UPs). It is made to put them in the middle area,” he said.

Nixon said he anticipates the federal mediator will be setting a date within a week to meet with both parties.