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Strike At Franklin County Agency Enters Third Week

Employees remain out on strike today at the Franklin County Child Enforcement Agency. Members of Teamsters Local 284 say they need larger annual raises and lower health care premiums, while county officials say their proposal of 2 percent annual pay increases and additional health care premiums is reasonable. But there also appears to be a difference in opinion on how the strike is affecting productivity at the county agency.

Members of Teamsters Local 284 line E. Fulton St. near downtown Columbus to protest what they say is an unfair contract proposal by the Franklin County Commissioners.

Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency Director Anthony Bond can see and hear the protesters from his third-story office. He stands in front of his large picture window with his arms crossed as he calls the strike unfortunate. As director of the agency Bond sits in on labor negotiations to provide what he calls an independent and realistic voice between the union and the county. Bond says despite escalated tensions and a severe reduction in staff, the office is still running at a near normal level.

At least one other county office echoes Bond's sentiments. The Franklin County Domestic Relations Court sees all disputed child support claims. Clerk of Courts spokesman Patrick McSweeney says his office has only seen a mild decrease in documents from the child support agency.

McSweeney says he anticipates a small but steady decrease in cases from child support until the labor dispute is settled. But union officials disagree with Bond and McSweeney.

Head Union steward Norma Barnes says employees at the agency worked ahead in anticipation of the strike. She says the Franklin County Domestic Relations Court will soon see a DRAMATIC dropoff in cases.

County officials are using contracted workers to pick up the slack at the agency. Also, 62 union workers have crossed the picket line to return to work. Each day they are greeted by union-made signs calling them scabs and cowards. Union members and county officials remain split on annual pay increases and health care premiums. Teamster officials say they need a raise larger that the proposed two percent to cover a recently-imposed 50 dollar montly health-care premium for employees' spouses. Both sides say they remain open to negotiations, but no new bargaining sessions are scheduled.