Butler County social workers back at bargaining table

Butler County Children Services.

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Butler County Children Services.

Negotiations for a new contract with the Butler County Children Services union start today.

The last time the Butler County Children Services union and management hit the negotiating table, talks turned ugly and the social workers walked a picket line for three weeks.

A LOOK BACK: Butler County social workers hit the picket line

Bill Morrison, director of Children Services, said he believes fences have been mended and these negotiations should go much better than the talks that started in 2013.

“I’m hopeful that the negotiations will go well,” he said. “I think there is a high level of acceptance of how we’ve deployed pay-for-performance. Most people feel like we’ve done it fairly.”

The negotiations went sour in the summer of 2014 when the wage divide was about a $1 million difference between what the workers wanted and what the county said it could afford. The lump-sum $500/$550 payment the county offered would have cost $213,000 extra. A fact-finder recommended 1.5/1.75/2 percent pay bump, plus cost of living steps, which had an additional price tag of $1.3 million.

All dressed in royal blue T-shirts carrying signs with messages like “We stand up to bullies” and “Honk for change in Butler County,” about 40 workers began picketing outside Children Services offices on Fair Avenue the morning of Aug. 18. Three weeks later, clad in “mourning black,” the case workers returned to work without a contract. Seven months after that, a new deal was sealed.

MORE: Social workers return to work without a contract

In exchange for the workers acquiescence to merit pay, the county agreed to a 2 percent increase to the minimum and maximum salaries on their pay ranges. Workers were awarded 1 percent to 3 percent pay raises based on performance.

Union chief Becky Palmer could not be reached for comment this morning by the Journal-News.

County officials announced this week finances are looking bleak for 2018 so the two percent, lump-sum incentive pay non-union employees received on top of an increase to their base this year might not be available.

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