Saturday, October 18, 2003

Family agency votes to strike

Union rejects county's latest contract offer

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hundreds of workers at the agency that handles child support, children's protection and welfare services in Hamilton County may not show up for work Oct. 27 after voting to strike Friday night.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees voted to reject the county's latest contract offer, which included 2 percent annual raises for the next three years even if other departments get less.

The vote total was not released. AFSCME members want an increase in their base pay and union security. "Basically, they didn't offer us anything," said union president A.B. James.

"How can you give us a 2 percent raise when you're increasing our medical insurance by 10 percent?" James said. "And the cost of living is still going up, and we don't even get a cost-of-living raise." The union represents almost 1,000 hourly workers at Hamilton County Job and Family Services, 389 of whom are dues-paying union members.

The agency will be open for business even if and when workers strike, spokeswoman Laurie Petrie said. The agency has the right to hire replacement workers, she said, but whether that happens will depend on how many people don't show up. Petrie said county and department officials "remain committed to efforts to arrive at an equitable contract."

Hourly employees have been working without a contract since May, and negotiations have been at an impasse since Hamilton County commissioners rejected a fact-finder's recommendations by a 2-1 vote in July. The report said the minimum salary at each job grade should be increased 2 percent.

The county made a new offer this week after about 60 percent of union members voted Oct. 7 to give a 10-day strike notice.

This year, each county department got the equivalent of a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase plus two 1 percent bonuses, Personnel Director Gary Berger said.

Janice Morse contributed. E-mail

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