Schuylkill County nursing home employees receive raises in agreements with facilities

Sep. 13—Workers at two Schuylkill County nursing homes will receive more money under contracts reached with their employers.

Under the three-year pacts, employees represented by SEIU Healthcare Pa at The Gardens at York Terrace in Pottsville and Ridgeview Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Shenandoah Heights will receive raises of more than $3 an hour, with the raises going up 9% in the first year of the contract and 18% during the course of the contract.

Workers with the lowest wages will get raises of more than 40%, according to the union, which released details of the contract Monday.

Starting wages will be $14.50 per hour, compared with $10.50 per hour the union said some employees were making. The contract also includes increases for longevity.

SEIU announced Friday it had reached an agreement with Priority Healthcare, parent company of The Gardens at York Terrace, and Comprehensive Healthcare. On Saturday, the union said one had been reached with Ridgeview's parent company, Shenandoah Heights Healthcare LLC.

The new contracts, which have been ratified by the union, end strikes at the facilities that began Sept. 2. The contracts for Guardian and Priority Healthcare are retroactive to July 1, while the one for Ridgeview employees went into effect on Sept. 1.

The strike involved 12 nursing homes and 700 workers, according to SEIU officials.

Staffing, health insurance needs met

In addition to the raises, workers will receive health insurance adjustments to make costs more affordable and allow more in-network providers, as well as a commitment to ensure safe staffing levels and language keeping the contract in the event of a sale.

Workers at Ridgeview received paid holidays, having previously used personal time to take off on holidays, according to SEIU.

Before going on strike, employees had demanded substantial wage increases for all existing employees; employer-paid health insurance; protection of the existing contract in the event of a sale; to be ensured that employers follow new state regulations governing staffing; and written commitments not to interfere with the rights of workers who choose to form their union to demand accountability from private equity firms and bad-actor nursing home chains.

"These workers have been relentless advocates for their residents, providing care through conditions most of us cannot even imagine," SEIU Healthcare Pa President Matthew Yarnell said in a statement. "There's a national trend towards for-profit nursing home operators using tax dollars to fulfill the demands of their investors.

"This strike was about forcing nursing home operators to invest in our work and care for Pennsylvania's residents."

David Jasinski, an attorney representing the two Schuylkill County nursing homes, said he was happy the contracts were settled and looks forward to continuing working with the union.

"We're looking to provide the best services to residents," he said.

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