Butler County case worker strike still at an impasse

BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Butler County Commissioners got an earful Thursday from striking caseworkers and their supporters about the need to end the 10 day-old walkout, but ended the day at an impasse.

The main sticking point in the talks between Butler County and the case workers union is wages. The union argues that good wages retain good employees.

Union supporter Michael Ball of Oxford Township says his message to commissioners is don't stop negotiating.

"I just encourage you to meet until you have a resolution," he told supporters.

While commissioners listened to impassioned pleas inside, picketing case workers outside were carrying placards encouraging passing motorists to honk their horns in a show of support. The honking was so loud it could be heard inside the commission chamber.

Union President Becky Palmer says it all seems to be falling on deaf ears.

"I came to you guys a month ago and said please listen and it didn't happen, instead I was told I started a war. This is not a war. This is what we want in order to do a good job," Palmer told the county.

Meanwhile County Administrator Charles Young says the agency has to cut costs by 30 percent because of a grim financial forecast.

"We went into 2014 project a $1.8 million budget deficit. Just two months ago we were projecting that at 2.2-million. Right now we're projecting 2.6-million," said Young.

FOX19 NOW asked Young what that deficit means for negotiations with the case workers union.

"It is important for the county and it's important that it be done in a way that makes sense for

our taxpayers and makes sense for what we can financially afford. It would make no sense for us to agree to something that we knew we could not afford going into it and we really wouldn't do that with any agreement that we were trying to reach. We certainly won't do it with someone as important to us as the children services independent union."

It's not clear how long the striking case workers can afford to remain out on the picket line because they're not eligible for unemployment insurance or strike benefits.

Butler County Commissioners have scheduled an executive session Tuesday where they'll meet with their bargaining team and get an analysis of the latest proposal from the case workers union. However, no new talks between the two sides have been scheduled.

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