Unionized workers from 20 Connecticut nursing homes have threatened to strike if money isn't added to the budget for pay raises.
Unionized workers from 20 Connecticut nursing homes announcing May 1 strike plans on April 15 at the Legislative Office Building.

{Updated at 3:15 p.m. with comments from District 1199 President Rob Baril.}

The state’s largest healthcare workers’ union has suspended indefinitely a planned May 1 strike at 20 nursing homes to allow negotiations to continue, a union spokesman confirmed Thursday.

And sources said Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration has proposed additional state funding for nursing homes, though it’s unclear whether it would be sufficient to fund the raises sought by New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 SEIU.

Any potential work stoppage has been deferred for two weeks to allow talks to continue, both with the nursing homes as well as with Lamont’s administration and the General Assembly, said union spokesman Pedro Zayas.

“We have seen a meaningful commitment to work for appropriate funding. We’re optimistic that with hard work and support from Governor 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,” said union President Rob Baril.

“I applaud the decision of the union to stay on the job and at the bargaining table,” said Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents 160 nursing homes. “It’s a decision that gets nursing home residents out of harm’s way for the foreseeable future.”

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,” Lamont spokeswoman Maribel La Luz said. “The goal is to reach a fair and necessary agreement as soon as possible.”

About 2,500 District 1199 members workers across 20 Connecticut nursing homes voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike earlier this month.

The union has recommended a 4 percent raise for all nursing home caregivers industrywide – including non-bargaining workers – in each of the next two fiscal years.

This would cost $40 million annually, labor officials said. About half of that would be borne by the state and half would be covered by federal Medicaid payments to Connecticut.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services is required to reassess nursing home costs at least once every four years, and to provide inflationary increases to homes in the years when a formal reassessment isn’t done. The industry did receive a 2 percent increase in state funding this fiscal year and a 3 percent increase in 2015-16.

Matthew Barrett, head of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities

But governors and legislatures often skip this inflationary adjustment in tough economic times. Lamont has proposed waiving it next year and in 2021. Nursing homes would lose out on $28.8 million next year and $61.2 million in 2021 if lawmakers agree to waive it.

The union says about 4,000 of its members — including the 2,500 at the 20 homes that were set to strike — have been working for nearly two years under expired contracts.

Meanwhile, Lamont and legislators are struggling to close major deficits projected for state finances in each of the next two fiscal years. Spending — unless adjusted — is on pace to exceed revenues by $1.7 billion next year and by $2 billion in 2021.

But they also have nearly $300 million in extra resources to work with after receiving some good news about the state income tax since the April 15 filing deadline. New estimates call for the state to finish the fiscal year with an even larger surplus than originally anticipated.

The state’s budget reserve, commonly known as the rainy day fund, already had been on pace to swell from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion after June 30. Based on the new tax data, the governor’s budget office now says the potential reserve is $300 million larger at $2.6 billion.

Union leaders on several occasions earlier this month said they would consider suspending the planned work stoppage if “meaningful progress” was made in talks with nursing homes and with state officials. But if an agreement is not reached going forward, union leaders can order a new strike date without having to have a new authorization vote from rank-and-file members. Any new strike notice would have to provide affected homes with at least 10 days notice.

The 20 nursing homes that were facing strikes on May 1 are:

  • Advanced Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Haven;
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Bucks Hill in Waterbury;
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Cromwell;
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at New Britain;
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Norwalk;
  • Bloomfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation;
  • Chelsea Place Care Center, LLC in Hartford;
  • Fresh River Healthcare in East Windsor;
  • Maple View Health & Rehabilitation Center in Rocky Hill;
  • Orange Health Care Center;
  • Silver Springs Care Center in Meriden;
  • Three Rivers in Norwich;
  • Touchpoints at Bloomfield;
  • Touchpoints at Chestnut in East Windsor;
  • Touchpoints at Farmington;
  • Touchpoints at Manchester;
  • Trinity Hill Care Center in Hartford;
  • West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center;
  • Westside Care Center in Manchester;
  • Windsor Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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  1. They found out people were already ticked off with the S&S strike and are afraid they wouldn’t get any support, especially since additional money from the State comes from those who pay taxes, not just individual shoppers.

  2. Nursing unions have made their point. They’re woefully underpaid compared to minimum wage unskilled jobs. Comparing nursing home wages with lowest rank public Union jobs makes the point.

  3. What a cozy little relationship this is. Unions underwrite Democrat campaigns, who then help their friends in the union shake down the system for more money. Meanwhile, the majority of non-profit workers receive a 1% cost of living increase in a 10 year period. We expect no less from the party of compassion.

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