The State Employment Relations Board has scheduled a hearing to determine whether Summit County Children Services violated bargaining laws when negotiating a new contract with the Communications Workers of America Local 4546.

The union, which represents social workers and clerical staff, filed a complaint against the agency earlier this year. The board has concluded that there is enough evidence to schedule a formal hearing for May 16.

The two sides are attempting to find a resolution through mediation before the hearing.

The complaint centers on the agency freezing longevity bonuses and other monetary increases this year for 37 union workers during the negotiations. Children Services knew the decision was an unfair labor practice but did it anyway, said Robin Schneault, head of the union.

The pay increases ranged from 36 cents to 97 cents an hour depending on the employee.

Both the Children Services Board and union earlier this month announced a new three-year contract, retroactive to January. The affected workers have since received the financial benefits in question, albeit late, Schneault said.

She said the union didn’t withdraw the charge after the contract was approved because “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Agency Executive Director John Saros denied the allegation.

“It’s a question of procedures and we’re pretty sure everything is going to be resolved before the hearing,” he said.

Saros said the money in question had been held in escrow during the negotiations and “the intent was to fully comply with the law.”

SERB Executive Director Christine Dietsch declined to comment on any potential penalty if the board determines a violation occurred.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.