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Ear to the Ground

L.A. Social Workers Say ‘Social Worker-to-Child Ratios’ Unsafe

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Posted on Dec 6, 2013
Hryck. (CC BY 2.0)

“More than 1,600 social workers in Los Angeles County have gone on strike for better pay and fewer caseloads, saying excessive demands were buckling the system and jeopardizing children’s safety,” The Guardian reported Friday.

It’s the first strike of its kind in more than a decade. The 721 local branch of the Service Employees International Union called it a last resort after talks broke down Wednesday night. The group said its members were overwhelmed with cases and unable to do their jobs correctly.

“We’ve made it clear that we’re serious about change and we will not stop until LA County commits in writing to safer social worker-to-child ratios,” the union declared on its website. Picketing would continue at more than a dozen locations and strikers would continue to occupy the space in front of the department’s headquarters, it said.

“We can’t make the right decisions when we don’t see our families enough; we’re so overwhelmed by paperwork and all kinds of other things that cases involve,” social worker Delmi Madrigal told radio station KPCC. “We can’t do it. We’re not going to make the right decisions in that kind of environment.”

At a given time, social workers in New York City have roughly nine investigations into child abuse open compared with 19 in Los Angeles.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The county chief executive, William Fujioka, said the department was disappointed at the strike and that it would affect a very vulnerable population. The county has drafted hundreds of administrators and managers to plug some of the gaps. Armand Montiel, a department spokesman, said key functions such as child abuse hotlines and emergency response units would work as normal.

The timing of a 6% pay rise was one of the key sticking points but the union focused public statements on caseloads to win favour with private sector workers who have yet to recover from the recession, according to the Los Angeles Times.

… There were no immediate plans for renewed talks between both sides. Zev Yaroslavsky, the county supervisor, ruled out including staffing requirements in a collective bargaining agreement. He accused the union of holding colleagues hostage to demands which would not be realised.

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