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Strike likely for Butler County Children Services workers

BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (Brad Underwood) -- When the clock strikes midnight, so will 127 union workers with the Butler County Children Services. After 14 months of trying to reach a new contract deal, the union says it's ready to strike.

In the end, it has come down to money.

Butler County Administrator Charles Young says Sunday's last minutes didn't produce anything new.

"We simply can't go back there. It's a failed model of compensation and we've got to move on to a different model," said Young.

The union wants a 3.5 percent pay increase for each year of the three year contract. They also want step raises that were frozen in 2012 re-instated.

Instead, the county offered up what all the other unions get. A lump sum of 500 dollars the first year, 550 the second and 550 the third, with an option to negotiate a pay for performance policy.

Union President Rebecca Palmer released a statement about the failure to reach a deal.

"We believe that the entire negotiation process demonstrated a blatant lack of good faith bargaining on behalf of the employer and Commsissioners. There have been comments made by the employer that they were hoping to avoid a strike. It appears to the union that these comments were disingenuous. The union believes that the Commissioners attempt to force a strike in this manner creates a tremendous amount of liability regarding the children this agency is charged to protect. We are devastated that the agency directors, Jerome Kearns and Bill Morrison, have chosen to stay silent and further the agenda of the County Commissioners. We believe they are using the children's well being as a pawn in a fight by those who are more concerned with political ideology. We will continue to be available to negotiate a fair contract on behalf of our members."

In anticipation of the strike, Butler County held a job fair last week. Young says they expect to hire 40 people. The county will also rely on other agencies across the state for help.

"We've asked them to be a part of making sure we make it through what we are now facing with the strike," said Young.

With 127 union employees striking, the remaining workforce number is 48 for the entire county. Young says supervisors will now become case workers.

Butler county recently hired 16 employees to work for Children Services. Regardless of the strike, those 16 still have a job because they were vacancy hires.

With 127 potential striking employees, Young says the plan in place to keep things running involves 20 administrators, seven new hires and about 25 people from outside agencies filling the gaps.

There is an online petition in support of giving the social workers a raise. As of Sunday evening close to 1.200 signatures have been posted. The petition will be presented to Butler County Commissioners on the first day of the strike.

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