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L.A. County reaches tentative deal with striking social workers

After days of strikes, Los Angeles County and its social worker employees reached a deal Friday to end the labor action by reducing caseloads, one of the last sticking points to signing a contract with a union that represents 55,000 county workers.

“After very difficult negotiations, we reached a tentative agreement,” said county spokesman David Sommers. “This agreement provides for a way forward in providing the best services to the children and families of this county.”

“It wasn't easy, but we made history,” said Chychy Ekeochah, a social worker and chair of the bargaining unit for her colleagues. “Because we put it on the line, the county accepted our Child Safety Now plan. That's a victory for us and for the children we serve."

Union officials said the deal includes the hiring of 450 social workers by Oct. 1, agreeing to reduce caseloads, decreasing paperwork and providing additional flexibility. Details are expected to be released at a 3 p.m. news conference.

The social workers are part of SEIU 721, which has been working without a contract for more than two months. The caseloads issue was among the main sticking points. Nearly two-thirds of social workers took to the picket lines last Thursday, the first strike by county workers in more than a decade. The union put the strike on hold Tuesday night and went back to the bargaining table.

Another point of contention between the county and the union was the timing of a 6% raise, and it was unclear Friday whether that had been resolved.

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Twitter: @LATSeema

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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