Union: strike averted at Lower Burrell nursing home, 17 more; workers are still ready to leave 18 facilities

A strike was averted at a Lower Burrell nursing home and 17 others across the state after a tentative contract was reached between the company and the union representing its employees.

But workers at 18 additional care homes operated by other companies involved in contract negotiations, including those in North Huntingdon, Murrysville and Monroeville, still plan to walk off the job in the coming weeks if a labor agreement is not reached. is not concluded, SEIU Healthcare PA union officials said.

Workers at 10 facilities owned by Guardian Healthcare, which includes Belair Healthcare & Rehab on Little Drive in Lower Burrell, had announced on August 23 that a strike was authorized on Friday over allegations of unfair labor practices and lack of accountability, according to union officials.

Workers at eight other Guardian-owned retirement homes in the state then voted to join the others in announcing a strike.

All of these were part of the negotiations that culminated in an interim pact between the company and the Service Employees International Union.

The union is still negotiating with the owners of Comprehensive Healthcare, which operates The Grove at Irwin in North Huntingdon and three others in the state who have authorized a strike.

On Tuesday, the union announced that Murrysville Rehabilitation and Wellness Center and Monroeville Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, also owned by Comprehensive, authorized a strike for September 9 if an agreement was not reached. concluded.

By law, the union must give nursing home administrators at least 10 days notice before going on strike.

The Meadows in Gettysburg and The Meadows in Camp Hill, both owned by Priority Healthcare, joined nine other company nursing homes in authorizing strikes, union officials said.

Union officials alleged that facility operators received about $600 million in public funding for staffing, salaries and resident care, but declined to provide details on how the money is spent. .

Care home operators have also been accused by the union of failing to bargain in good faith by offering lower raises than last year despite the injection of state money.

SEIU Healthcare PA said the state’s $600 million is taxpayers’ money and requires facilities to spend 70% of it to fund staffing and bedside care.

“We are committed to establishing a fair contract that invests in the caregivers and staff our residents need,” said Karen Hipple, licensed practical nurse at Guardian Facility in Oil City. “Being a nursing home worker has been extremely difficult, especially over the past few years. We are grateful that we were able to work with Guardian and reach this agreement which demonstrates a commitment to workers and provides what we need to care for our residents and our own families.

Guardian employees are due to vote this week on whether to ratify the tentative labor agreement, officials said. Details of the deal are being withheld until employees have a chance to review and vote on the proposal, union officials said.

The union’s bargaining committee, which includes employees from the facilities involved in the negotiations, unanimously recommended that the workers ratify the contract.

Although the final compensation package was not released, the union was negotiating an hourly wage of $16 for dietary, housekeeping and support staff; $20 per hour for certified practical nurses; and $25 per hour for licensed practical nurses plus increases based on seniority.

They also asked for, among other things, employer-paid medical coverage and assurances that an existing contract would continue if a facility was sold.

“We have worked hard to reach a fair agreement with SEIU that demonstrates Guardian’s continued commitment to our team members,” said Michael J. Herald, President and CEO of Guardian Healthcare. “We recognize the crucial role they play in caring for residents of the many communities we serve and look forward to the early ratification of the agreement as we continue our efforts to make Guardian an employer of choice in the healthcare industry. qualified nurses.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tony by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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