The walkout—the first county strike in more than a decade—was called Wednesday night by the Service Employees International Union Local 721. The union represents more than 55,000 county employees who have been working without a contract for more than two months.
The two main obstacles in contract negotiations are caseloads for social workers and the timing of a pay raise, the Los Angeles Times reported ( http://lat.ms/18FMn0H).
Armand Montiel, a Department of Children and Family Services spokesman, said hundreds of administrators were prepared to fill in for striking workers. They will ensure that the child-abuse hotline remains staffed, that emergency responders are available, and that the agency could stay focused on any service that might affect a child's safety, he said.
Marathon bargaining sessions in recent days yielded agreements on a 6 percent raise, the county covering most increasing health premiums and a $500 bonus in 2014, according to the newspaper.
However, both sides remained apart on the union's desire to reduce social worker caseloads by hiring 35 more workers per month for 17 months. They also proposed a retroactive raise as if they had settled before their contract expired Sept. 30. County officials said the move would violate long-held negotiating policy.
"We've done everything we can to convince LA County leaders to pay attention to child safety, but they've flat-out refused," union negotiator Chychy Ekeochah said in a statement.
County Executive Officer William T Fujioka questioned the union's decision to strike when both sides were close to a settlement.
"It is disappointing that they are willing to take an action that will have such a serious impact on public services when we are so close to finalizing an agreement," he said.