Contract talks continue for CAO, OAPSE

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

No deal, but they're still talking.

Negotiators for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action organization and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 170 will probably meet again this week after a three-hour bargaining session Thursday failed to produce an agreement.

"It was encouraging that there was some movement, but they're still not addressing issues of the employees' right to fair and equitable treatment and security of benefits," OAPSE Field Representative Karen Kuehne said. "We are hopeful, though, this can be resolved at the table."

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CAO Director of Human Resources James Ingram said just the fact that both sides are still talking is a positive sign. "We're continuing the work at some difficult issues but we're hopeful both sides can develop a better understanding of the entire picture," he said.

The contract covering more than 100 Head Start bus drivers, cooks, custodial workers, day care workers and other employees expired Dec. 31.

Kuehne has said the union members are upset that CAO management cut some employees hours, thereby eliminating health care benefits for those affected.

CAO management contend the cuts were necessary since the agency's funding has been cut in recent years. Kuehne maintains that only union employees have been asked to take cuts, management has not been affected.

Kuehne said union members have discussed a strike, but view it as a last resort in case talks fail. "There is only so far we can go until we're forced onto the picket line," she said. "The clock is ticking."