Strike in Pennsylvania:
Workers from a nursing home go on a strike in Pennsylvania which occured as a result of unsuccessful negotiations between union and provider representatives over unfair labour practices, some 700 nursing home nurses, health aides, and support personnel left their workplaces on Friday morning.
14 nursing homes around the state are affected by the strike, including two in the Harrisburg region.
Talks between SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and two providers, Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare, ended early on Friday morning, according to officials. Neither provider offered sufficient investments in staffing and care.
The SEIU president, Matthew Yarnell, stated, “Our aim has always been – and continues to be – to secure a fair contract that invests in this entire workforce and will significantly address the staffing shortage.
“Failing to develop the kind of wage scales we’ve been able to achieve with other suppliers,” he charged the nursing home owners.
There was no deal reached after the early-Friday morning talks, which started on Thursday. Homes in a dozen counties across the state were affected by the strike.
There are around 700 licensed nursing facilities in Pennsylvania.
According to trade groups, nursing homes have long struggled with a high turnover rate that the COVID-19 pandemic made worse. Some facilities were also forced to close or downsize due to slow Medicaid reimbursements.
Recently, state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration increased Medicaid payments to nursing homes by about $300 million yearly and sent an additional $130 million in federal coronavirus aid to help them recruit and keep staff. A 17.5% increase, or nearly $35 more per resident per day, is represented by the increased Medicaid spending.
However, the American Rescue Plan funds have not yet been allocated, and the increased reimbursements will not start until January, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents for-profit nursing homes.
Given the extra money, Elizabeth Rementer, a spokesperson for Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, termed the strike “unfortunate and absolutely avoidable.”
The package, according to her, gained backing from both parties and was applauded by the labour and industry. We are now learning of a few nursing home owners who are refusing to commit to the types of investments this financing was designed to encourage, less than 60 days after the governor signed this historic legislation.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents for-profit nursing homes, highlighted that the American Rescue Plan funds have not yet been allocated and that the increased Medicaid reimbursements do not take effect until January.
The group stated that although providers are negotiating worker contracts to support greater compensation “(without) distributed funding,” they also need to have the financial wherewithal to support a new enhanced staffing level that demands recruiting additional workers in order to maintain operations.
Additionally, the group claimed that the funding agreement from July did not take into account the union’s increased pay expectations.
About 30 employees were on a picket line on Friday, including Donna Pronio, a licensed nursing assistant at the Shenandoah Heights nursing home in Schuylkill County. She claimed that from the start of the year, the employees have been without a contract.
“We believed that the money we fought for in Harrisburg should be a topic of discussion and something to provide to the locals and employees. However, they haven’t yet made a sincere effort to bargain,” Pronio said in a phone interview. We simply want to be acknowledged and valued.
Two businesses, Comprehensive Healthcare and Priority Healthcare, run the majority of the nursing facilities.
According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, of which Priority is a member, Priority hired agency personnel to complete the shifts that the striking employees were supposed to have worked.
According to Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the trade association, “it is crucial to keep in mind that the health care employees arriving at these institutions are there to care for the patients.” “While negotiations between the union and providers continue, we are urging people on the picket lines and the broader public to respect that and support them.”
This week’s planned strikes at 10 Guardian nursing facilities were avoided when unionised employees who work for Guardian Healthcare struck a contract deal beforehand.
The SEIU has restricted the strike to a ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) over the distribution of the governor’s already constrained funding as nursing employees continue to fight for fair pay and improved working conditions. The organization’s needs may theoretically be satisfied by the provision of the money, which will take effect over the next months.
Earlier this week, the company revealed a provisional arrangement with 18 additional private nursing homes owned by Guardian Healthcare. Without allowing workers to vote on the terms of the offer to decide whether it was worthwhile revising their plans, it called off a walkout that had been announced a week earlier.
In order to end a planned walkout involving 1,500 Pennsylvania Guardian Healthcare and Priority Healthcare employees last year, the SEIU used the same strategy of publicising a tentative deal. In order to avoid friction with the city’s Democratic Party-controlled administration as it prepared to open schools for the fall, the SEIU Local 32BJ put off a scheduled strike by Philadelphia public school employees last week, once more without giving members a say in the decision.
The SEIU is a significant supporter of the Democratic Party and a vital force in the selection of party leaders. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, who earns an annual salary of $289,000, is reportedly “the most prominent union voice within the [Biden] White House,” according to the Washingtonian magazine. In the last 30 years, the group has donated roughly $140 million directly to Democrats.
Due to this, the SEIU in Pennsylvania has vowed to support the Wolf administration. Recently, state regulations mandating a minimum of 4.1 hours of direct patient care were relaxed by the state Department of Health. According to federal regulations, this would have brought the state up to the needed minimum level.
Instead, the Wolf administration increased this requirement to 2.87 hours per day for direct patient participation. This is a slight improvement above the prior time of 2.7 hours.