Opioid epidemic pushing caseworkers to their limits, strike possible

Local News

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – Montgomery County and more than 270 children services caseworkers are preparing for a strike over wages.

Tuesday, Montgomery County emailed Professional Guild of Ohio union members, reminding them they will not be paid during a strike and that primary medical insurance will stop by the end of July. Dental, vision and life coverage will cease when the strike starts on or after July 19th.

The strike possibility comes as roughly 702 children are in custody of the county. The impact of the opioid epidemic is playing a major role in wage negotiations too.

“It stresses resources. I do know that. I know that our foster care infrastructure is being strained,” said John Stringer III, a Montgomery County caseworker. “The extra workload on caseworkers….it hurts,” he added.

Montgomery County caseworkers make between $19.60 to $30 an hour.

County Administrator, Michael Colbert said in statement, “We respect the work of child welfare case workers. They have difficult jobs, and their work helps protect children in our community. However, we believe the County’s final offer was both fair and fiscally responsible.”

Montgomery County says their caseworkers are already among the highest paid in the region. The union says their pay should reflect their workload.

Caseworkers are working an average of 17-20 cases at one time. Some cases have several different caseworkers.

As 2 NEWS first reported in June, PGO expected a 6 percent wage increase following 2019. A much larger union, AFSCME, which represents roughly 800 Montgomery County employees, including other Children Services workers, got a 6 percent wage increase.

PGO union members got a 1 percent wage increase offer that would increase to 3 percent in a step-like structure. Since 2013, both PGO and AFSCME raise structures were essentially mirrored.

PGO isn’t buying that the county doesn’t have the money to meet them at 6 percent.

“We don’t understand that. Mr.Colbert, the County Administrator himself, over the last 2 years, he went from in 2017 making $141,582 to over $190,000.”

PGO says everyone got the raises they wanted, except for them.

Montgomery County maintains Children Services will remain open if a strike does happen.

2 NEWS will continue to follow this story.

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