State board: Montgomery County Children’s Services caseworkers must return to work

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PGO union members go on strike on Friday, July 19, 2019. (Photo: Darren King)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The State of Ohio’s Employment Relations Board has ordered Montgomery County Children’s Services caseworkers to go back to work.

The board announced its ruling after an emergency meeting Sunday. That meeting included Montgomery County officials and union representatives for the employees.

The two sides have failed to reach an agreement on wages.

The Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO) represents more than 270 caseworkers at Montgomery County Children’s Services.

Union members went on strike Friday after a final negotiation with county officials and state mediators last week failed to produce an agreement.

Sunday, the state board ruled a strike would constitute a clear and present danger to the county.

The board says the workers are entitled to strike, but ruled that protecting vulnerable children is in the public’s interest. The board ordered the caseworkers to end the strike and return to their jobs.

“We are grateful that the Ohio State Employment Relations Board supported Montgomery County’s position,” Montgomery County Director of Communications Brianna Wooten said. “This ruling will allow us to provide the most comprehensive support for children and families, while continuing negotiations with the union representing our child welfare caseworkers, the Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO).”

Wooten says negotiations will continue over the next 60 days.

The county is offering a 3-percent pay increase.

The union has rejected that offer, citing another union that negotiated a 6-percent pay raise for its workers. That union represents more than 800 employees in Montgomery County.

The board’s ruling Sunday came one day after U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a bi-partisan group of lawmakers leaders to urge the county and the union to work together to end the strike.

Other lawmakers in the coalition include Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, as well as Ohio State Senators Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) and Peggy Lehner (R- Kettering), State Representatives Niraj Antani (R-Miami Township), Todd Smith (R-Farmersville), and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton).

 The officials released the joint statement below:

“Montgomery County Children Services employees and social workers perform critical services for families and children, and their jobs are made even more difficult due to the addiction crisis. We respectfully urge all sides to come back to the table and work in good faith to come to an agreement that best serves workers and the community.”

PGO has not commented on the state board’s ruling.

No date has been set to continue negotiations.

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