No agreement was reached Wednesday between Montgomery County Children Services union workers and the county following a closed-door settlement conference with an area judge.
Judge Richard Skelton ordered Wednesday’s talks in private after both sides had not reached an agreement during several public sessions.
The union, represented by the Professionals Guild of Ohio, went on strike in July, but Skelton ordered them back to work as part of a 60-day injunction sought by Montgomery County. Both sides met in a private session on Sept. 6 as “the parties continue to make efforts to resolve the matter,” according to the court.
Jane Hay, the union’s local president, told this news organization Wednesday that she was hopeful that day’s meeting would lead to a settlement. She said the session did not move the sides to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement and she felt that the county is trying to break the union.
“No agreement and nothing new,” Hay said, noting that the meeting lasted a little over three hours. “We do feel that we have a right to fight for what is fair and we will continue to do that.”
Commissioner President Debbie Lieberman said the county is highly supportive of all its local unions and their members.
“We value our union employees, and fully endorse the right of all our employees to collectively bargain and negotiate. The county has positive and healthy relationships with its major unions, including AFSCME, and values those partnerships,” Lieberman said. “The current situation with the PGO is clearly an anomaly in the long history of collective bargaining between the county and its union-represented employees.”
Wages have been the major sticking point. In July, Joyce Carter, the county’s director of human resources, said the county offered PGO a 3% percent raise across-the-board, a 1% range adjustment and a $500 lump sum equivalent to approximately an additional 1%.
PGO, representing about 270 child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children, first asked for a 6% increase, one consistent with the county’s latest contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Union officials said members had voted against the county’s offer of a 4% increase and any subsequent offers that didn’t go higher.
Attorney Nadia Lampton represents Children Services and said she was hopeful that Wednesday’s private session would help lead to a resolution, but left the negotiations feeling less confident.
“It doesn’t appear that a resolution is on the horizon, particularly given that the county’s proposal for a 5% across-the-board increase which would have applied to everyone but has not been put to a vote yet,” Lampton said. “The PGO bargaining committee has refused to take that 5% offer to the membership for a vote.”
Lampton said she is hopeful that the union membership will get a chance to vote on the offer so “they can decide their future and not have a few union leaders push their own agenda.”
Hay said the assertion that union leadership is holding back a fair deal for members is not accurate and they want to make sure that the county will step up and do what is right for the membership.
The 60-day injunction ends Sept. 21.
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