NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Many union workers at Clinical & Support Options are on strike, and plan to continue their protest through the end of the week.
Chanting: “What do we want? Contracts! When do we want it? Now!” the workers picketed outside CSO’s Northampton office Wednesday morning. Similar pickets were also scheduled in Springfield and Greenfield. This is actually their second series of strikes this year.
“The passion that we have about the work that we do has just been not been valued,” outpatient clinician Stephanie Agnew said.
CSO staffs hundreds of mental health clinicians, who provide support and services for families and children in western Massachusetts. CSO administrators and their staff have been in contract negotiations for the last eight months.
“They want to raise the productivity in this contract,” outpatient clinician Andrew Berger said. “We are working harder. We’re doing a lot more collateral, non-billable work.”
Picketing workers told 22News that other issues they want changed in the contract CSO is offering includes travel mileage rates and wage increases. CSO’s President and CEO Karin Jeffers told 22News that they are are offering the highest wage increases they can for the amount of funding they receive from the state.
“On a daily basis, we advocate for better rates so that we can pass that along to our staff. We have a great deal of respect for them. We understand the frustration being there,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers says 80 cents of every state dollar goes towards paying CSO staff, the remaining 20 cents goes towards all other costs to operate the business. The company staffs more than 350 clinicians and crisis workers that provide mental health and family support services to roughly 14,000 WMass children and families each year.
Despite the strike, Jeffers said a majority of their employees did go to work Wednesday, with only about 51 people not reporting for work. She said that facilities are open, and that crisis centers are still running as normal.