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County of Will v. Local 1028





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. THOMAS W. VINSON, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 15, 1980.

Local 1028 Will County Employees Union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (hereinafter Union) appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Will County, granting summary judgment to plaintiff County of Will (hereinafter County), in the County's suit to vacate an arbitration award entered in favor of the Union by a board of arbitration. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the County on its petition to vacate the award and on the Union's two counterclaims, both seeking enforcement of the award. On this appeal, the Union challenges the circuit court's action in entering summary judgment and thereby vacating the award. A more specific discussion of the issues raised by the Union must await a recitation of the factual background of the case. To that we now proceed.

On December 1, 1973, the Union and the County entered into a collective bargaining agreement which by express terms governed through November 30, 1974. That '73-'74 agreement set forth compensation schedules and other related matters regarding employee work conditions. It also contained, in article VII, an agreement between the parties for a grievance procedure to resolve disputes under the contract. The final step of the procedure was a hearing before a board of arbitration. In the agreement, both sides agreed to abide by a decision of the board of arbitration, "to the extent permitted by law." Article I of the agreement contained the following pertinent clauses:

"Section 3. The benefit of any and all decisions and conclusions the Board [the County Board] may reach after negotiating with the Union shall apply equally to all employees.

Section 4. Should negotiations fail to resolve differences between the Board and the Union, the decision of the Board shall be final. Section 5. The Union recognizes that the Board has the power and responsibility under the Laws of the State of Illinois for directing the operations of the County and that the Board reserves such power and responsibility to itself, limited only by the specific and express terms of the Agreement to the extent such terms are permitted by law."

The above-quoted language of section 5 echoes language in the preamble to the agreement which states: "The Union recognizes, however, that this Agreement shall in no way restrict the right of any governmental body or elected public official to carry out its or his duties and obligations as required by law." Another pertinent provision of the contract on this appeal is article XI, which provided that the '73-'74 agreement should "automatically be renewed from year to year thereafter" unless terminated in writing by either side within a specified time period. Having set forth the pertinent provisions of the '73-'74 agreement, we turn then to the year in dispute on this appeal, 1974-1975.

Prior to the end of the '73-'74 contract year, the Union and the County began negotiations for a new contract to cover '74-'75. The negotiating teams for both sides met and had apparently reached an agreement on a new contract. One provision of the new contract was to grant to county employees an across-the-board 10% salary increase, to a maximum of $1,050. While the negotiating team for the County apparently agreed to that provision, the full county board never did. On November 29, 1974, the county board adopted a resolution which, in pertinent part, recited (1) that a renewal of the contract was due, (2) that the proposed agreement had certain changes, including a provision that "[a]ll salaries will reflect the 10% increase, to a maximum of $1,050 for all County Employees with over six months service," and (3) that the finance committee recommends that the County enter into a working agreement with the Union. The resolution closed with the following language: "that the County of Will enter into the proposed Union Agreement for the ensuing fiscal year, December 1, 1974 through November 30, 1975, and that the County Board Chairman be authorized and directed to execute said Agreement."

Despite the resolution authorizing and directing the board chairman to execute the union agreement specified, the agreement between the County and the Union, to cover '74-'75, was never executed. The Union refused to sign the agreement set forth by the County because it contained the unagreed-to addendum with respect to the requirement of six months service with the County in order for employees to receive the 10% salary increase. That particular addendum with respect to salary increases was contrary to the agreement reached during negotiations between negotiating teams, although it appears to have been consistent with previous board policy. At any rate, the parties could not agree to a salary increase provision and no collective bargaining agreement, for fiscal '74-'75, was ever executed by the parties.

In December 1974, the county board, as required by statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 34, pars. 2101 through 2107), adopted a budget for the fiscal year 1974-1975. That budget contained salary increases of various sizes, depending upon job classification and length of service with the County in a particular job category. As a result of adoption of the budget, persons who had been with the County for over six months, in the same position, received a full 10% pay increase. Persons who had not been with the County for six months, in any capacity, were given no pay increase. Some persons who had been with the County for more than six months, but were newly promoted to a new position, received a 5% pay increase. In addition, the effect given to the budget by the County was to freeze those salary schedules for the entire year as to a particular job. For example, when a person, who had not received any increase in December, was promoted to a vacant position, which had previously been filled by someone who had received the pay raise, then the newly promoted person would continue to receive the same pay as the previous employee in the job. The increases were initially based upon an individual's length of time with the County in a particular job, but once into the fiscal year, the increases were frozen with the particular job and not with the individual. There is no question that the salary schedule which was contained in the budget for '74-'75 did not reflect the 10% across-the-board wage increase agreed to by the negotiating teams for the County and the Union. Neither did the actual increases reflect the literal meaning of the language used by the Board in their November 29, 1974, resolution, which language recited an agreement as to a 10% increase "for all County Employees with over six months service."

Thereafter, the Union filed a grievance in which they contended that the County failed to provide all employees with the full 10% increase, with a maximum of $1,050, as had been agreed to by the parties' negotiating committees. The Union protested that the salary schedule adopted by the County, with its varying percentage increases tied throughout the year to a particular job category, resulted in inconsistent and unequal treatment of county employees. The Union and the Board were unable to resolve their differences with respect to the grievance. Therefore, pursuant to the terms of the '73-'74 agreement, which not having been terminated, remained in effect, the dispute was taken before a board of arbitration for final resolution and decision. The board of arbitration took testimony, heard arguments of counsel and examined written briefs.

On May 23, 1977, the board of arbitration issued its opinion and decision. The board of arbitration found that the County was not bound by the terms of the wage increase agreed to by its negotiating team, since the negotiators had not been empowered to reach final and binding agreement with the Union. The board held that the County had final decision making power and that it had retained the authority to modify any proposed wage agreement, including the authority to specify the type and nature of salary increases for 1974-1975. The board also found that there was no violation of the '73-'74 contract when wage increases were withheld from employees with less than six months' service with the County on December 1, 1974. However, the board of arbitration did find a violation of the '73-'74 agreement, which had continued in force, in the manner in which salary increases were made to certain employees in the '74-'75 fiscal year. It found a violation of section 3 of article 1 of the '73-'74 agreement, which provided:

"The benefit of any and all decisions and conclusions the Board may reach after negotiating with the Union shall apply equally to all employees."

The finding of a violation of this provision was based upon another board of arbitration finding, namely that the November 29, 1974, resolution of the county board governed the wage increase pattern that was granted to county employees for '74-'75. Having concluded that the resolution was the county board's governing decision with respect to salaries for '74-'75, the arbitration board concluded that such decision, which had come about after negotiations with the Union, was required to be applied equally to all county employees, by the above-quoted provision in the '73-'74 agreement. Accordingly, the arbitration board "awarded" all county employees with more than six months' service on December 1, 1974, a full 10% salary increase, with a maximum of $1,050, with retroactive ...

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