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Franklin County's Child Support Enforcement Agency Hit by Strike

More than half of the 270 employees at Franklin County's Child Support Enforcement Agency failed to report to work today. It's the first day of a strike by the agency's 140 Teamsters Union members who say they're unhappy with a proposed 2% wage increase and a $50 per month charge for health insurance.

Dozens of Teamsters members picketed on the sidewalk outside the Child Support Enforcement agency which oversees child support. The union called the strike after contract negotiations, which began last November, stalled. One of the sticking points is a newly accessed $50 per month charge for a spouse's health care coverage. Another, according to Teamsters business representative Donn Mann, is a proposed 2% pay increase.

"The commissioners have decided that they want to take insurance premium costs out of their checks and give us a 2% raise which actually nets a loss for about 80% of the bargaining unit," says Mann.

That's unfair, according to Mann, especially, he says, since the county pays nothing to run the child support agency.

"By the work they do, they receive federal incentive funds in excess of $11 million; they receive state funds, over $1 million; and they receive a charge from everyone that comes through here of 2% -- last year they collected over $193 million. We take zero dollars from the county budget, but the county seems to think it fit to take $50 to cover something they're already paying," Mann says.

Mann says Franklin County's Child Support Enforcement Agency is the most efficient in the state. Last year it received several million dollars in federal bonuses. Even so, Franklin County Commission president Paula Brooks said in a written statement that all county employees should be treated fairly with similar wage and benefit packages. County child enforcement agency director Anthony Bond says a neutral third part from the state employment relations board sided with the county.

"There's a procedure that's followed in the state of Ohio with public employees and when bargaining went as far as it can go we went to what's called fact finding," Bond says. "A neutral fact finder listens to both parties and comes out with a neutral report; what they believe is fair. The fact finder came out taking the health care plan as it is with the county and offering pay increases for '06 and '07. The county's position is that we think that it's fair."

Bond says the agency, which oversees about 90-thousand cases, will operate normally during the strike. He says a mediator will continue to negotiate with both sides.