City of Belvidere v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board

Annotate this Case
City of Belvidere v. ISLRB, Nos. 82231, 82249 (2/20/98)

Docket Nos. 82231, 82249 cons.--Agenda 20--September
1997.
THE CITY OF BELVIDERE, Appellee, v. THE ILLINOIS
STATE LABOR RELATIONS BOARD et al., Appellants.
Opinion filed February 20, 1998.

JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:
This appeal arises out of a decision and order of the Illinois
State Labor Relations Board (Board), finding that the City of
Belvidere (City) had committed an unfair labor practice under
section 10(a)(4) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act)
(5 ILCS 315/10(a)(4) (West 1994)). The Board determined that
the City had committed an unfair labor practice because it
refused to bargain with the Belvidere Professional Firefighters
Association (union) over its decision to contract out paramedic
services to a private ambulance company. The Board found that
the City's unilateral decision to contract with a private company
to provide paramedic services to City residents involved a
mandatory subject of collective bargaining. The Board therefore
ordered the City to rescind the contract with the private
ambulance company and engage in collective bargaining with
the union.
The City sought review of the Board's decision and
order in the appellate court. The appellate court reversed,
holding that the City's decision to contract with a private
company to provide paramedic services was not a mandatory
subject of collective bargaining. 283 Ill. App. 3d 663. As such,
the City's refusal to bargain did not amount to an unfair labor
practice.
The Board and the union filed petitions for leave to
appeal with this court. We allowed the petitions and
consolidated the appeals. 166 Ill. 2d R. 315. We also permitted
the Associated Firefighters of Illinois to file an amicus curiae
brief in support of the Board's decision.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm the decision of the
appellate court, which reversed the Board's decision and order.

BACKGROUND
In 1974, the City purchased its first ambulance and
began providing its residents with emergency medical services
(EMS) through its fire department. The Emergency Medical
Services (EMS) Systems Act (EMS Act) (210 ILCS 50/1 et seq.
(West 1994)) governs the provision and regulation of EMS in
Illinois. The EMS Act established three levels of EMS: basic
life support (BLS), intermediate life support (ILS), and advanced
life support (ALS). 210 ILCS 50/4.06, 4.19, 4.01 (West 1994).
The EMS Act also sets forth three corresponding levels of
technicians, who are licensed by the Illinois Department of
Public Health (Department) (210 ILCS 50/10 (West 1994)) to
perform EMS (210 ILCS 50/11 (West 1994)).
The lowest level of licensed technician is an Emergency
Medical Technician--Ambulance (EMT--A). 210 ILCS 50/4.12
(West 1994).[fn1] An EMT--A renders BLS services, which
includes airway management, cardiopulmonary resuscitation,
control of shock and bleeding and splinting of fractures. 210
ILCS 50/4.06 (West 1994). The findings of the City's ad hoc
committee show that the training requirements for an EMT--A
are 140 hours of classroom training and 10 hours of clinical
training.
The next level of licensed technician is an Emergency
Medical Technician--Intermediate (EMT--I). 210 ILCS 50/4.15
(West 1994). An EMT--I is authorized to provide BLS services
and certain advanced life support services. 210 ILCS 50/4.15,
4.19 (West 1994). A licensed EMT--I has completed an
additional 80 hours of classroom training and 30 hours of
clinical training.
The third and highest level of licensed technician is an
Emergency Medical Technician--Paramedic (EMT--P). 210 ILCS
50/4.13 (West 1994). An EMT--P performs ALS services which
include all BLS services and cardiac monitoring, cardiac
defibrillation, electrocardiography, administration of
antiarrhythmic agents, intravenous therapy, administration of
medication, drugs and solutions, use of adjunctive medical
devices, trauma care, and other authorized techniques and
procedures. 210 ILCS 50/4.13, 4.01 (West 1994). This level of
technician requires an additional 360 hours of classroom training
and 140 hours of clinical training.
In addition to regulating EMS rendered by technicians,
the EMS Act also authorizes the Department to license and set
standards for the operation of ambulances. 210 ILCS 50/9 (West
1994). The Department licenses ambulances to provide a
specific level of service: either BLS, ILS, or ALS. 77 Ill. Adm.
Code sec. 535.100(g) (1994). Every ambulance, regardless of
service level, must be staffed with at least two EMTs. 77 Ill.
Adm. Code sec. 535.150(f)(1) (1994). An ILS ambulance must
be staffed with at least one EMT--I and an ALS ambulance
must be staffed with at least one EMT--P. 77 Ill. Adm. Code
sec. 535.150(f)(3) (1994).
As stated above, the City's fire department began
providing EMS to Belvidere residents in 1974. The level of
service was less than BLS; however, one or two firefighters
began training as EMTs. By 1976, the City required its
firefighters, as a condition of employment, to become licensed
EMT--As. In 1980, the City purchased and began operating a
second ambulance. In the late 1980s, several of the City's
firefighters began training as EMT--Is. By 1990, six firefighters
had received EMT--I certification, and the City began operating
one of its ambulances at the ILS level.
Throughout this time period, when the City received a
"911" call, the fire department ambulance had dispatch priority.
That is, in response to a "911" call, the fire department
dispatcher would send a fire department ambulance staffed with
two firefighter EMTs to the scene unless the caller specifically
requested a private ambulance. On other occasions, the
dispatcher sometimes requested backup assistance from private
ambulance companies, which operated ambulances staffed with
EMT--Ps. Such assistance was requested when "911" calls came
in while the fire department's ambulances were already in
service, or when additional emergency medical personnel were
needed. At such time, the City's firefighter/EMTs worked
alongside the paramedics from the private ambulance companies
to provide EMS. Among the private ambulance companies
operating within Belvidere at that time was Lifeline Ambulance
Service, Inc. (Lifeline).
In late 1989 or early 1990, the City required three
probationary firefighters to sign individual agreements to
become licensed and certified EMT--Is or EMT--Ps as a
condition of employment. The current union's predecessor
subsequently filed a grievance complaining that the City
contracted separately with individual bargaining-unit members
in violation of the collective-bargaining agreement. An unfair
labor practice charge was later filed with the Board. The matter
was resolved when the City agreed to remove the individual
agreements from the firefighters' personnel files. The unfair
labor practice charge was ultimately withdrawn because the City
agreed to put the paramedic issue on the "back burner" and to
notify the union before considering the paramedic issue in the
future.
In 1990, during negotiations for a new collective-
bargaining agreement, the City and the current union's
predecessor discussed proposals for a paramedic program within
the fire department. The parties were unable to reach an
agreement on such a program, which was therefore not
implemented.
Sometime in 1991, two EMT--I firefighters voluntarily
downgraded their certification to EMT--A for apparently
personal reasons. This action caused the City to be unable to run
a properly staffed ILS ambulance. Accordingly, the ILS
ambulance was downgraded to a BLS ambulance.
On May 13, 1991, the City's public safety committee
created an ad hoc committee to discuss the feasibility of
upgrading the City's EMS program by turning over the City's
ambulance service to an outside party or providing advanced
service within the fire department. The ad hoc committee
conducted a survey of the fire department's EMS program of
comparable municipalities within geographic proximity to
Belvidere. The ad hoc committee also sent a questionnaire to a
number of private ambulance companies inquiring as to the level
and scope of services that the companies offered and
background information. Lifeline was one of the private
companies that responded. The ad hoc committee also received
a proposal from the fire department, which recommended that
the City provide paramedic services through the fire department.
On October 9, 1991, the ad hoc committee submitted its
findings and recommendations to the City's public safety
committee. The ad hoc committee recommended that the City's
level of EMS be upgraded to the paramedic level. The
committee noted that a proposal had been received from the
City's firefighters to offer this service. "The terms, conditions,
and costs," the committee found, "will need to be set out in a
future contract and should be recommended to negotiators." The
committee recommended that "should the City institute the
program," any firefighters hired after August 1989 be required
to obtain paramedic certification. The committee further noted
that another option would be privatization of EMS and that four
private ambulance companies had expressed an interest in
performing the service. However, cost data for such an option
could only be supplied if the City assembled bid specifications
for the service. Accordingly, the committee suggested that bid
specifications be prepared and submitted to the four private
companies as a means to compare private paramedic service
with paramedic service through the fire department.
On October 14, 1991, the City's public safety committee
considered the ad hoc committee's recommendations and
established a special committee to prepare bid specifications for
private ambulance service with paramedics.
In January of 1992, the City prepared and sent its bid
specifications to four private ambulance companies. All four
ambulance companies responded; however, three of the
companies declined to submit proposals. Only Lifeline indicated
that the City's specifications were generally acceptable. The
union also submitted a response to the bid specification, which
included a list of the advantages of using firefighters as
paramedics.
During the negotiation of a new collective-bargaining
agreement in 1992, the City and the union discussed proposals
for a paramedic program within the fire department. The parties
were unable to reach an agreement.
On January 14, 1993, the fire chief sent a letter to the
City's finance and personnel committee stating that the union
had decided to begin paramedic training. In the letter, the fire
chief suggested to the City that it would be preferable if the
City and the firefighters were in agreement on such training. He
further advised the committee to reopen the firefighters'
collective-bargaining agreement to discuss the issue of
paramedic training. The fire chief subsequently prepared a report
analyzing the cost of instituting a paramedic level EMS program
in the fire department using firefighters.
Shortly after the fire chief submitted his report, the City
resolicited bids for paramedic ambulance service from private
ambulance companies. The City, by letter, advised the union of
its resolicitation of bids from private companies and sent the
union a copy of the bid solicitation. A series of letters between
the union and the City followed. The union took the position
that the City's letter was a proposal to modify the collective-
bargaining agreement between the union and the City. The city
attorney informed the union that the City did not intend to
reopen the labor agreement. The union responded by formally
requesting to bargain over the decision to contract out paramedic
services. The City declined the request to bargain because it
claimed to have no duty to bargain over the issue.
On September 7, 1993, the City decided to enter into a
contract with Lifeline to provide paramedic ambulance service.
Under the City's agreement with Lifeline, Lifeline was granted
dispatch priority for EMS calls in exchange for its agreement to
provide paramedic level EMS. The City's firefighter/EMTs
would continue responding to EMS calls on a backup, or
assistance, basis to Lifeline's paramedics. However, they would
automatically be dispatched to assist Lifeline paramedics on
certain emergency calls, including those involving cardiac or
respiratory emergencies, trauma and motor vehicle accidents.
In a letter dated September 8, 1993, the union demanded
collective bargaining over the effects of the City's decision to
enter into the Lifeline contract. The City agreed to enter into
bargaining over the "effects" of the City's decision; however,
the City refused to bargain over its decision to contract with
Lifeline.
On September 13, 1993, the union filed an unfair labor
practice charge with the Board. The basis of the charge was the
City's refusal to bargain over its decision to contract out
paramedic services, which, according to the Union, was a
mandatory subject of collective bargaining.
After a hearing on the union's charge, an administrative
law judge (ALJ) issued a recommended decision and order. The
ALJ ruled that the City had not committed an unfair labor
practice because the City's decision to contract out paramedic
services with a private company was not a mandatory subject of
collective bargaining. The ALJ reasoned that the City's decision
did not affect wages, hours, or terms and conditions of
employment. The ALJ noted that the contract for paramedic
services did not result in the elimination of firefighter positions
or change the wages, hours or other conditions of the
firefighters' employment. Moreover, the firefighters were not
deprived of a reasonably anticipated work opportunity because
paramedic duties had never been performed by firefighters.
Instead, the ALJ found that the City's decision was merely a
matter of inherent managerial authority. It was the opinion of
the ALJ that the City's decision was inherently a public policy
decision about the functions and level of emergency medical
services the City's fire department would provide to the citizens
of Belvidere. Therefore, the ALJ concluded, the City's refusal
to bargain with the union prior to implementing the decision to
contract with a private company for paramedic services did not
constitute a breach of its duty to bargain in good faith. The ALJ
thus dismissed the union's complaint. The union filed exceptions
to the ALJ's decision and order with the Board.
Following oral arguments, the Board issued its decision
and order finding that the City's refusal to negotiate with the
union amounted to an unfair labor practice because the City's
decision to contract out paramedic services was a mandatory
subject of bargaining. In rendering its decision, the Board first
determined that the City's decision affected wages, hours and
other conditions of the firefighters' employment. The Board
found that the City's action involved a departure from its
previously established operating practices because, by removing
the firefighter/EMTs' dispatch priority, there had been a change
in the "quality and kind" of the City's prior subcontracting of
EMS. The Board also found that the City's action had an
adverse impact on the firefighters' conditions of employment
because the firefighters responded to fewer EMS calls. In
addition, the City's decision foreclosed any opportunities the
firefighters had for promotion to a higher EMT level, namely
paramedic. The Board further found that the City's decision
resulted in a significant impairment of reasonably anticipated,
fairly claimable work opportunities for the firefighters because
paramedic services are merely an upgrade of the services
already being performed by the firefighter/EMTs. Based on
these findings, the Board determined that the City's decision
affected wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.
The Board then balanced the benefits that bargaining would
have on the decisionmaking process with the burdens that
bargaining would impose on the City's authority. The Board
concluded that the City did not demonstrate that requiring it to
bargain over who will perform paramedic services for its
citizens will significantly impair its ability to perform its
governmental functions. Moreover, the benefit to the firefighters
and to the collective-bargaining process is clear and compelling.
Consequently, the benefits of bargaining outweighed any burden
on the City's authority.
The Board therefore concluded that the City's decision
concerned a mandatory subject of bargaining. Accordingly, the
City committed an unfair labor practice because it made a
unilateral change in a mandatory bargaining subject without
granting prior notice and an opportunity to bargain with the
bargaining representative of the firefighters, the union. The
Board therefore ordered the City to cease from refusing to
bargain collectively with the union, rescind the contract with
Lifeline, and bargain with the union over paramedic services.
The City filed a petition for review of the Board's
decision and order in the appellate court. The appellate court, in
reversing, reasoned that the City's decision to contract with a
private company to provide paramedic services did not affect
wages, hours or other conditions of the firefighters'
employment. As such, the appellate court found that the City's
decision was not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.
The appellate court concluded that the Board's determination to
the contrary was clearly wrong and that the City had no duty to
bargain.

ANALYSIS
The issue in this appeal is whether the City's refusal to
engage in collective bargaining with the union over the City's
decision to contract out paramedic services to a private
ambulance company amounted to an unfair labor practice in
violation of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act) (5
ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Section 10(a)(4) of the Act
provides:
"(a) It shall be an unfair labor practice for
an employer or its agents:
* * *
(4) to refuse to bargain
collectively in good faith with a labor
organization which is the exclusive
representative of public employees in an
appropriate unit ***." 5 ILCS
315/10(a)(4) (West 1994).
In resolving whether the City committed an unfair labor practice
in violation of section 10(a)(4), we must determine whether the
City had a mandatory duty to bargain collectively with the union
before contracting with a private company to provide paramedic
services. Therefore, the key determination in this appeal is
whether the City's decision to contract out paramedic services
to a private company constitutes a mandatory subject of
collective bargaining.
The Act imposes a duty on a public employer, such as
the City, to engage in good-faith collective bargaining with its
employees' representative under certain circumstances. Section
7 of the Act addresses a public employer's duty to bargain over
mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. Section 7 of the
Act specifically provides in part:
"A public employer and the exclusive
representative have the authority and the duty to
bargain collectively [as] set forth in this Section.
For the purposes of this Act, `to bargain
collectively' means *** to negotiate in good faith
with respect to wages, hours, and other
conditions of employment, not excluded by
Section 4 of this Act ***." 5 ILCS 315/7 (West
1994).
Thus, pursuant to this section of the Act, an employer has a
duty to bargain over issues which affect "wages, hours, and
other conditions of employment."
Section 4 of the Act further clarifies the employer's duty
to bargain. Section 4 provides in relevant part:
"Employers shall not be required to
bargain over matters of inherent managerial
policy ***. Employers, however, shall be
required to bargain collectively with regard to
policy matters directly affecting wages, hours and
terms and conditions of employment ***." 5
ILCS 315/4 (West 1994).
Accordingly, we must determine whether the City's decision to
contract out for paramedic services affects wages, hours and
other conditions of the firefighters' employment so as to
constitute a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.
Before addressing the merits of this issue, we must first
determine the applicable standard of review. The parties dispute
what standard of review is applicable in this appeal. The Board
argues that this case involves a question of fact. The City and
the union argue that this case involves a mixed question of law
and fact. This appeal comes to us on review of an order of an
administrative agency, the Illinois State Labor Relations Board
(Board), which is responsible for administering and enforcing
the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act. 5 ILCS 315/5 (West
1994). Pursuant to the Act, judicial review of the Board's
decision is limited and governed by the Administrative Review
Law (735 ILCS 5/3--110; 5 ILCS 315/11(e) (West 1994)).
Section 3--110 of the Administrative Review Law provides that
judicial review of an administrative agency's decision extends
to all questions of law and fact presented in the record. 735
ILCS 5/3--110 (West 1994). The standard of review applicable
to the agency's decision depends upon whether the question
presented is one of fact or law.
An administrative agency's findings and conclusions on
questions of fact are deemed to be prima facie true and correct.
735 ILCS 5/3--110 (West 1994). In examining an administrative
agency's factual findings, a reviewing court does not weigh the
evidence or substitute its judgment for that of an administrative
agency. See Abrahamson v. Illinois Department of Professional
Regulation, 153 Ill. 2d 76, 88 (1992); Launius v. Board of Fire
& Police Commissioners, 151 Ill. 2d 419, 427-28 (1992).
Instead, a reviewing court is limited to ascertaining whether
such findings of fact are against the manifest weight of the
evidence. See Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88; Launius, 151 Ill. 2d at 427; City of Freeport v. Illinois State Labor Relations
Board, 135 Ill. 2d 499, 507 (1990). An administrative agency's
factual determinations are contrary to the manifest weight of
evidence where the opposite conclusion is clearly evident. See
Abrahamson, 153 Ill. 2d at 88; City of Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at
507.
An administrative agency's findings on a question of
law, on the other hand, are reviewed with less deference. A
court reviews such determinations on a de novo basis. See
Branson v. Department of Revenue, 168 Ill. 2d 247, 254 (1995).
As such, an agency's decision on a question of law is not
binding on a reviewing court. See Envirite Corp. v. Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency, 158 Ill. 2d 210, 214 (1994);
City of Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at 507.
We agree with the City that the issue presented in this
case cannot be accurately characterized as involving solely a
question of fact or a question of law. Instead, the Board's
determination is best considered a mixed question of fact and
law. See Branson, 168 Ill. 2d at 265. The Board's finding is, in
part, factual because it involves considering whether the facts in
this case support a finding that the City's decision affected
wages, hours and other conditions of employment. Nevertheless,
the Board's finding also concerns a question of law because the
phrase "wages, hours and other conditions of employment" is a
legal term that requires interpretation. Consequently, because
this case involves an examination of the legal effect of a given
set of facts, it involves a mixed question of fact and law. Given
the mixed nature of the Board's decision, we find that the
applicable standard of review should be between a manifest
weight of the evidence standard and a de novo standard so as to
provide some deference to the Board's experience and expertise.
We therefore hold that a clearly erroneous standard of review is
appropriate to examine the Board's decision. See generally T.
O'Neill & S. Brody, Taking Standards of Appellate Review
Seriously: A Proposal to Amend Rule 341, 83 Ill. B.J. 512
(1995). We now turn to the merits of this appeal.
This court has previously considered the scope of an
employer's duty to bargain. This court set forth a three-pronged
test for determining whether an issue is a mandatory subject of
collective bargaining in Central City Education Ass'n v. Illinois
Educational Labor Relations Board, 149 Ill. 2d 496 (1992). The
first prong of the test involves a determination of whether the
matter is one of wages, hours and terms and conditions of
employment. Central City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523. If the answer to
this question is no, then the inquiry ends and the employer is
under no duty to bargain. Central City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523.
However, if the answer is yes, then the second prong of the test
must be reached. The second prong considers whether the
matter, in addition to affecting wages, hours and terms and
conditions of employment, is also one of inherent managerial
authority. Central City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523. If the answer to this
question is no, the analysis ends and the matter is considered a
mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Central City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523. If, however, the answer to the second inquiry is yes,
then the reviewing court proceeds to the third and final prong of
the test. The third prong weighs the benefits that bargaining will
have on the decision-making process against the burdens that
bargaining imposes on the employer's authority. Central City,
149 Ill. 2d at 523.
Although the three-pronged test set forth in Central City
arose in the context of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations
Act (115 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 1994)), we find that this test
applies in cases, such as this, arising under the Illinois Public
Labor Relations Act. The Board and our appellate court have
repeatedly applied this test in the public labor relations setting.
See Village of Franklin Park v. Illinois State Labor Relations
Board, 265 Ill. App. 3d 997 (1994); County of Cook (Cermak
Health Services), 10 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.) par. 3009, No. L-
-CA--92--116 (ILLRB January 19, 1994). Given the substantial
similarity in the management rights and the employer rights
section in both Acts, we are persuaded that the application of
the Central City test in this matter is correct. Compare 115
ILCS 5/4 (West 1994) with 5 ILCS 315/4 (West 1994). We,
therefore, apply the Central City test to determine whether the
City had a duty to bargain with the union over its decision to
contract out paramedic services.
The first prong of the Central City test requires us to
determine whether the City's decision to contract out paramedic
services to an outside party was one of wages, hours and terms
and conditions of the firefighters' employment. The National
Labor Relations Board, in Westinghouse Electric Corp., 150
N.L.R.B. 1574 (1965), set forth a number of factors to be
considered in determining whether an employer's unilateral
subcontracting decision is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Although the National Labor Relations Board in Westinghouse
addressed a private employer's duty to bargain under the
National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. sec. 151 et seq.
(1994)), the parties agree that the Westinghouse factors are
applicable to this case. These factors have previously been
applied by the Illinois courts and the Illinois Educational Labor
Relations Board in considering the first prong of the Central
City test. See Board of Education of Sesser-Valier Community
Unit School district v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations
Board, 250 Ill. App. 3d 878, 885 (1993); University of Illinois
at Chicago (Board of Trustees), 12 Pub. Employee Rep. (Ill.)
par. 1087, No. 93--CA--0039--C (IELRB September 24, 1996).
Moreover, the unfair labor practice provisions of the two acts
are similar. Compare 29 U.S.C. secs. 158(a)(5), (d) (1994) with
5 ILCS 315/10(a)(4), (a)(7) (West 1994). We therefore will
consider the Westinghouse factors to determine whether the
City's decision in this case is one of wages, hours, and terms
and conditions of the firefighters' employment.
In Westinghouse, the National Labor Relations Board
determined that an employer's unilateral subcontracting decision
is a mandatory subject of bargaining when the subcontracting
(1) involved a departure from previously established operating
practices, (2) effected a change in the conditions of employment,
or (3) resulted in a significant impairment of job tenure,
employment security, or reasonably anticipated work
opportunities for those in the bargaining unit. Westinghouse, 150
N.L.R.B. at 1576. First, we consider whether the City's decision
to contract out paramedic services constitutes a departure from
previously established operating practices. The record shows
that, even prior to its contracting with Lifeline, the City did not
provide EMS to its residents exclusively through its fire
department employees. The record does not indicate if there was
ever a formal contractual relationship between the City and
private ambulance companies prior to the contract with Lifeline.
Moreover, it is not disputed that prior to the City's contract with
Lifeline, private ambulance companies had historically provided
EMS in cooperation with the firefighters. While the firefighters
provided basic life support (BLS) services and at times
intermediate life support (ILS) services, they never provided
advanced life support (ALS) services at the paramedic level. In
fact, the private ambulance companies were the only providers
of paramedic services within Belvidere. Consequently, the City
had an established operating practice of permitting the
firefighters and the private ambulance companies to share in the
provision of EMS and, further, of providing paramedic services
through private companies.
The City did not depart from this practice in "quantity
and kind," as advocated by the Board, when the City formally
contracted with Lifeline. The City's contract with Lifeline does
not change the quantity or kind of work performed by its
firefighters, who would continue to provide EMS. Although the
firefighters have lost their dispatch priority on EMS calls to
Lifeline, they continue to be dispatched automatically on some
emergency calls, including those involving cardiac or respiratory
emergencies, trauma and motor vehicle accidents. As such, the
firefighters continue to respond to emergency calls and provide
EMS. The firefighters had never performed paramedic services
prior to the Lifeline contract. Thus, the performance of those
services by Lifeline does not constitute a change in practice. In
sum, both before and after the Lifeline contract, the fire
department and private ambulance companies share in the
provision of EMS. We conclude that the record shows that the
City's contracting out of paramedic services did not depart from
the City's prior practice with regard to the provision of EMS.
The next Westinghouse factor we examine is whether the
City's decision effects a change in the firefighters' conditions of
employment. As noted, the firefighters continue to provide EMS
and respond to emergency calls. The fact that the firefighters
lost their dispatch priority on "911" calls and function as a
backup to Lifeline does not change their conditions of
employment, which is to perform EMS. There is no indication
that the contract with Lifeline resulted in the elimination of
firefighter positions or in a reduction in the firefighters' hours
or wages. We acknowledge that a change in the condition of
employment is not limited to an elimination of positions or
alteration of wages or hours, but may also encompass the loss
of potential work or promotional opportunities. See Village of
Franklin Park v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 265 Ill.
App. 3d 997 (1994). Nevertheless, the record in this case
establishes that the contracting out of paramedic services did not
deprive the firefighters of potential work or promotional
opportunities. The firefighters never performed paramedic
services and were neither legally capable nor qualified to
provide such services. The firefighters were licensed as EMT--
As and at times EMT--Is. As set forth in the facts, there are
significant qualitative differences in the types of emergency
services provided by licensed EMT--As and EMT--Is in
comparison to EMT--Ps, who perform all advanced life support
services. The facts also reveal the qualitative differences in the
level of training that individuals undergo to attain being licensed
as an EMT--A, EMT--I, or EMT--P. It is evident from these
significant differences in service and training that providing
paramedic services is not merely an extension or upgrade of
EMS provided at the level of EMT--A or EMT--I. Therefore,
performing paramedic services was neither potential work nor
a promotional opportunity for the firefighters. Consequently, the
City's contracting out of paramedic services did not change the
firefighters' conditions of employment, which consisted of
providing EMS.
The final Westinghouse factor is whether the City's
decision results in a significant impairment of job tenure,
employment security or reasonably anticipated work
opportunities for the firefighters. The Board and the union
contend that the City's decision results in a significant
impairment of the firefighters' reasonably anticipated work
opportunities. In light of the previously discussed qualitative
differences in the nature of paramedic services as compared to
the level of EMS provided by the fire department, the
firefighters did not have a reasonable expectation of performing
paramedic services. Paramedic services were not fairly claimable
as a work opportunity by the firefighters because they did not
possess the necessary qualifications or licensing to perform such
services. Moreover, the fact that the City had on prior occasions
discussed with the firefighters the possibility of training them to
become paramedics does not result in a reasonable expectation
of performing paramedic work. Those discussions never resulted
in an agreement on paramedic training. In addition, the City
informed the firefighters that it also was considering private
companies to provide such services. We find that the record
shows that providing paramedic services did not represent a
reasonably anticipated work opportunity fairly claimable by the
firefighters.
In sum, we determine that the City's decision to contract
out paramedic services to a private ambulance company is not
one of wages, hours and terms and conditions of the firefighters'
employment. The first prong of the Central City test has
therefore not been met. Accordingly, the City's decision did not
involve a mandatory subject of bargaining pursuant to section 7
of the Act. The Board's determination to the contrary is clearly
erroneous. The City therefore did not commit an unfair labor
practice in violation of section 10(a)(4) of the Act.

CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the decision of the
appellate court, which set aside the decision and order of the
Board.

Appellate court judgment affirmed.

JUSTICE HARRISON, dissenting:
The majority's decision was completely predictable. Over
the past several years, this court has become an inhospitable
place for organized labor and the Illinois Public Labor Relations
Act (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 1994)). See, e.g., Chief Judge
of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit v. Illinois State Labor Relations
Board, 178 Ill. 2d 333 (1997); American Federation of State,
County & Municipal Employees v. Department of Central
Management Services, 173 Ill. 2d 299 (1996); Office of the
Cook County State's Attorney v. Illinois Local Labor Relations
Board, 166 Ill. 2d 296 (1995). The government wins, the unions
lose, and that is that. There was no reason to think this case
would be treated differently.
If the matter were decided on the merits, as it should be,
one would have to conclude that the Illinois State Labor
Relations Board (the Board) was entirely correct in holding that
the City of Belvidere committed an unfair labor practice when
it refused to bargain with the union collectively in good faith
regarding its decision to contract out paramedic services. The
issue was a mandatory subject of collective bargaining under the
standards set forth in Central City Education Ass'n v. Illinois
Educational Labor Relations Board, 149 Ill. 2d 496 (1992), as
the Board properly held.
In rejecting the Board's decision, my colleagues rely on
the first prong of the Central City test, which asks whether the
employer's actions involve wages, hours, and terms and
conditions of employment. Central City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523.
Central City makes clear that this question is one that the
administrative agency "is uniquely qualified to answer." Central
City, 149 Ill. 2d at 523. Contrary to Central City, however, the
majority shows no deference whatever to the Board's experience
and understanding of bargaining. Purporting to employ a
"clearly erroneous" standard, what the majority does instead is
simply substitute its own judgment for that of the Board.
Rejecting the Board's factual determinations, my
colleagues depict the City's decision as inconsequential.
Although it is true that there has been no reduction in work
force or pay, at least so far, those factors are not dispositive.
Under Westinghouse Electric Corp., 150 N.L.R.B. 1574 (1965),
which this court has adopted, the issue is whether the
employer's decision involves a departure from previously
established operating practices, effects a change in the
conditions of employment, or results in a significant impairment
of job tenure, employment security, or reasonably anticipated
work opportunities.
In the matter before us, the City entered into a private
contract for EMS services where there had been no such
contracts before, it took primary responsibility for EMS work
away from its firefighters and bestowed it on a private
contractor, and it eliminated the opportunity its firefighters
previously had to advance by upgrading their levels of EMS
certification. In light of these facts, I fail to see how one can
seriously deny that the City departed from previously established
operating practices, changed the conditions of the firefighters'
employment, and significantly impaired the firefighters' work
opportunities. The City's decision therefore qualifies as a matter
"of wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment"
under the first part of the Central City test.
The result reached by the majority reflects a narrow view
of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act in which the duty to
bargain collectively is seen as the exception rather than the rule.
That view is directly contrary to the law. Under the Act, the
duty to bargain collectively is broad, and any exceptions should
be construed narrowly. See, e.g., City of Decatur v. American
Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, Local
268, 122 Ill. 2d 353, 364-66 (1988).
I do not understand my colleagues' reluctance to give the
policies and provisions of the Act effect. To say that the City
has the duty to bargain collectively here does not mean that the
City cannot ultimately subcontract EMS services to private
companies or alter the EMS responsibilities presently held by its
firefighters. As Justice Miller correctly noted in City of Decatur,
122 Ill. 2d at 367, and as section 7 of the Act (5 ILCS 315/7
(West 1994)) provides, the duty to bargain collectively does not
require a party to reach a particular agreement or make a
particular concession. For the purposes of the dispute before us
today, it means simply that the parties must meet and talk in
good faith before final action is taken. There is no possible
harm in that. And it is the law. I therefore dissent.


[fn1] Effective July 19, 1995, the EMT--A designation was
changed to EMT--B (Basic). 210 ILCS 50/3.50 (West 1996). We
continue to use EMT--A because that designation was in effect
during the period relevant to this appeal.