Many Connecticut families breathed a sigh of relief last week after Gov. Ned Lamont announced that his administration had reached a “basic agreement” with nursing home operators and the union that represents workers in order to avert a planned strike at 26 facilities across the state.
The state’s role in this resolution was critical, bringing an historic $267 million in additional funding for nursing homes. The revamped version extends the labor-management agreement from two to four years and includes additional money for health care and pension benefits.
As reported by The Associated Press, the agreement includes a 10% rate increase in Medicaid payments to nursing homes over nine months; $145 million for wage enhancements for workers that equates to 4.5% in fiscal year 2022 and 4.15% in fiscal year 2023; and $13 million in workforce training, such as helping CNAs become LPNs or RNs.
District 1199 New England, SEIU, which also represents more than 2,000 workers at 200 group homes across Connecticut, has also delayed a planned strike at those facilities, moving the strike date to June 4 with the hope that new agreements can be reached on labor contracts that expired with six group home agencies that serve people with physical and intellectual disabilities, mental illness and other needs.
“We look forward to discussions with Governor Lamont about providing a level playing field for workers and their agencies to reach fair contracts," said Rob Baril, the union's president, who called such talks “long overdue” in a statement.
After the nursing home agreement with the administration, Paul Mounds, Lamont 's chief of staff, announced that strikes planned by District 1199 New England SEIU at seven facilities owned by iCare Health Network had been postponed.
This allowed further negotiations and final agreements to be made with the nursing home owners.
Strikes had also been threatened at facilities owned by Genesis Healthcare and Autumn Lake Healthcare, with more planned at homes where union contracts had already expired.
Matt Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities, hailed the agreement as a “critically important breakthrough achievement” and credited the increased financial support from the state with jump-starting the labor talks.
“It's a good deal. It's a good deal for the front-line nurses, the biggest increase they've gotten in many a year,” Lamont said. “I think it shows we're keeping faith with the folks who are taking care of our parents and grandparents.”
Let’s hope this state can continue to avoid strikes at nursing homes. Too many of our most vulnerable citizens would be put at risk.