A threatened May 1 strike by more than 2,500 workers at 20 nursing homes across the state – including at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Norwalk – has been averted, at least for now.
“We have seen a meaningful commitment to work for appropriate funding,” said Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England, the union that had set the May 1 date. “We’re optimistic that with hard work and support from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and our friends in the legislature, we can achieve the funding that we need to get good contracts and avert a strike.”
At issue are wages – SEIU is seeking raises of 4 percent in 2019 and another 4 percent in 2020 – and inadequate staffing ratios at nursing homes.
The union’s action came after Lamont’s proposed 2019-20 state budget bill did not include funding for such wage increases, “which means certified nurse assistants will be limited to a total increase of 25 to 30 cents over five years, while the cost of living in Connecticut continues to rise significantly,” the union said.
Lamont’s office has pledged to continue negotiations.
“The governor supports this decision and remains committed to facilitating the best and fairest outcome while reducing, to the extent possible, any potential disruption for the vulnerable residents and patients who rely on these homes for their care,” a spokesperson said.
The Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities (CAHCF), an association of 160 skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities, expressed its support for the postponement of the strike.
“Our nursing home operators had been encouraging all parties to stay at the bargaining table and remain fully engaged in the ongoing Connecticut state budget appropriations process where the core issue of badly needed increased Medicaid resources for nursing homes is pending and can be addressed,” CAHCF CEO Matthew V. Barrett said.
Should an agreement not be reached, the workers – who previously voted 1,449 to 78 to authorize the May 1 strike – could strike again; the National Labor Relations Act requires labor unions to give health care employers a minimum of 10 days’ notice before taking such action.
“We are hopeful that we won’t have to resend additional deadline notices,” Baril said.