Striking Children Services workers and county reach tentative deal

The union representing striking Montgomery County Children Services workers says a tentative agreement was reached with the county on Monday that will send people back to work Tuesday.

MORE: Children’s Services union proposes settlement to end strike

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

Jane Hay, the union’s local president, told this news organization Monday afternoon that the strike is effectively over after a morning negotiating session produced a tentative agreement. She said it appears to be satisfactory to both sides, with wage issues resolved.

“We have been at this for a long time, but now the strike is over,” she said. “The membership will vote on the tentative agreement later this week — we have not set an official time yet — and the commissioners are set to vote on it Oct. 8.”

County spokeswoman Brianna Wooten confirmed a tentative agreement was reached Monday.

“The strikers should be returning to work” Tuesday, she said. “The commissioners will vote on it following the union’s ratification of the agreement. That will be the next step.”

MORE: Children Services workers to go on strike again Sunday

Both sides said particular details of the agreement will not be disclosed until after the vote to ratify.

Hay said union workers had expressed a desire to get a deal done Monday because their health insurance was being dropped at midnight. “If you didn’t go in today they were going to cut off your health insurance,” she said. “They already had cut off our vision, dental and life insurance. But the strike had ended today and we’ve vacated the picket lines.”

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 then 4%. The final offer was for 5%, retroactive to April 1.

Union leaders said top-scale earners would not get a 5% raise to base pay, but instead would receive a lump-sum payment.

The union went on strike in July, but the county sought a temporary injunction preventing the walkout that was granted by Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Skelton. The 60-day injunction expired last Sunday and union workers again hit the picket line for the past week.

Wooten said the county was always willing to get back to the negotiating table and come up with “a wage increase that is both fair and reasonable.”

Suzanne Dichito, a union member, said she’s glad about having a tentative agreement.

“I have been doing this since 1995, and I can tell you that caseworkers make so many sacrifices and put their lives on the line in some situations, trying to help people with mental health and drug addiction issues and help children in need,” she said. “I am glad that this is ending and everybody can get back to work.”

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

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