By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Lucas County commissioners yesterday rejected a fact-finder’s report calling for raises for more than 200 county Children Services board employees, pushing the child welfare agency one step closer to a strike.
Commissioners voted unanimously to reject 3 per cent general wage increases for union caseworkers, secretaries, and nurses.
Wages for all three groups are part of a step system that increases pay with experience.
“Their current salaries are near the top of their field in this area,” said Reuben Bumpus, president of the Children Services board. “We want to eliminate some of the step increases.”
Union representatives said they likely will file by the end of today the documents necessary to go on strike.
“I’m very disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” said Sally Powless, a staff representative for the Professionals Guild of Ohio, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 544.
She said the union will submit a strike notice within the next two business days.
By law, the union cannot go on strike until 10 days after it submits notice.
In a Wednesday night meeting, the Children Services board rejected the same three fact-finder recommendations. The board is appointed by the county commissioners.
“We were very pleased that they affirmed the decision the board came to,” Mr. Bumpus said. “We feel the employees are paid very well.”
Both the Children Services Board and the county commissioners approved the fact-finder’s recommendations on contracts for five CSB attorneys, but the attorneys themselves had earlier rejected the report.
The fact-finder recommended that they not be added to the step system.
By rejecting the proposal, the attorneys will now be part of future negotiations aimed at avoiding a strike.
Ms. Powless said those negotiations might begin again on Wednesday at the earliest.
Mr. Bumpus said he did not know of any previous strikes in the agency’s history.
“In the event of a strike, I hope the community will rally around us to keep the children’s interests highest,” he said.
The union represents about 200 caseworkers, five nurses, 10 secretaries, and five attorneys.
The contracts for caseworkers, nurses, and secretaries expired in April; the attorneys are seeking their first collective-bargaining agreement.
A beginning caseworker makes $469.35 for a 35-hour week. After 12 years of experience, the salary rises to $708.05 a week.