Children Services workers to go on strike again Sunday

Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO) represents about 270 child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children. FILE
Caption
Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO) represents about 270 child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children. FILE

Montgomery County Children Services union workers will go on strike again over the weekend, the union’s local president said Friday.

Jane Hay, the union’s local president, said the strike is expected to start at 9 a.m. Sunday with larger numbers of workers off the job Monday at 7 a.m.

“We are going back out on strike,” Hay said.

MORE: Children Services negotiations break down again

Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO) represents about 270 child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children.

When negotiations began nearly seven months ago, the union wanted a 6% increase for all its workers. The county originally offered a 1.5% increase, but later changed it to 2% and 4%. The final offer was for 5%, retroactive to April 1.

The union went on strike in July, but the county sought a temporary injunction that Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Skelton granted. The 60-day injunction expires Sunday.

EARLIER: Children Services strike looms as union rejects county offer

Members on Wednesday voted to reject the last contract offer from Montgomery County. Union leaders said top-scale earners would not get a 5% raise to base pay but instead a lump-sun payment.

On Friday, representatives from the county and union met with Skelton, who had urged both sides to work on finding a way to settle the contract dispute.

EARLIER: County, union divide grows in Children Services dispute

Skelton said both sides met Friday to discuss safety issues and the contingency plan after the union said it will strike.

“This morning was about the safety issue,” the judge said. “At this point, that is the court’s concern.”

County spokeswoman Brianna Wooten addressed the strike Friday afternoon, saying that the county worked tirelessly and negotiated in good faith.

“We did make a generous offer of 5% for all of our employees,” she said. “To be clear, it would be unfair to our taxpayers to offer more. Our caseworkers, as we have already discussed publicly, are among the highest paid in the state and the highest paid in our region. We do believe in offering a fair competitive wage, and we believe our offer was fair, competitive and generous.”

Hay told this news organization after the meeting that “county HR informed our chief negotiator that they are not coming back to the table.”

“We will be back out there,” Hay said of picket lines. “The union is always hopeful that the county will come back and try to work this out for the sake of the children and families in the community.”

She said the county’s final offer wasn’t fair and doesn’t measure up with the contract with workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, which included a 6% wage increase.

“We are on the front lines protecting the children,’ Hay said. “We are not being greedy, but just looking for a fair contract.”

MORE: State board: Striking Montgomery County children’s services employees must return to work

Wooten said the county is working on the implementation of its contingency plan to ensure the continuation of “vital services to protect children and families.”

“We do have confidence that we will have the essential staff and support with our management staff, volunteers from the department and very generous assistance being offered from by surrounding counties to get the work done,” Wooten said.

Wooten said the county plans on issuing subpoenas for all caseworkers to appear for their scheduled court cases.

“We are issuing subpoenas for all caseworkers,” she said. “If caseworkers do not appear in court, they risk being held in contempt of court.”

MORE: State board to rule on future of Children Services strike

The county also isn’t rushing back to negotiations.

“To be honest, we made an extremely generous offer and they voted that down,” Wooten said. “I don’t believe at this time there our plans for further negotiations. We are just preparing for the eventuality of a strike.”

Matt Clark of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers - Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) has followed the contract dispute and feels the sides are not that far apart, but doesn’t see PGO signing off on a contract that they say isn’t fair.

MORE: Montgomery County Children Services workers file strike notice with state

“I think from a bargaining standpoint, they are somewhat close, it doesn’t sound that they are that far apart. This is only a wage re-opener it is not like they were bargaining for an entire contract,” he said. “I’ve talked to PGO members and their leadership and they are not weak people. They go into homes and into dangerous situations to protect children and they aren’t allowed to carry firearms like law enforcement, so I don’t think they are going to back down in this fight.”

He added, “I understand that we are talking about taxpayers dollars, and it is the public sector. But that is why we pay taxes - to pay for services and to have quality service. In this case, it is the protection of kids and that is something we don’t want to yank each other’s chain over.”

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