Nursing home union seeks raises

Labor negotiations for former care facility break down
Andy Ouriel
Mar 5, 2014
A bitter bargaining quarrel underscores a long-brewing dispute between Erie County commissioners and employees at the government’s nursing home.

Since this past fall, both sides have clashed on terms for a new three-year contract involving about 65 union employees working at The Meadows at Osborn Park, formerly the Erie County Care Facility, near Osborn MetroPark.

In short, union representatives want to maintain or increase benefits and pay packages for employees in a new contract.

Commissioners, however, contend the union’s proposal isn’t feasible, especially considering the nursing home’s poor financial standing.

The nursing home has collectively lost about $4 million in year-over-year deficits dating back to 2002, according to county financial data.

One primary reason for the red ink circles back to nursing home workers receiving excessive bonus payouts and other benefits compared to other county employees, commissioners contend.

A neutral third party recently publicized demands and counteroffers from both sides in a fact-finding report, in which an unbiased official presents claims and suggests recommendations for a possible settlement.

But no such compromise occurred.

The fallout: Almost each nursing home employee partaking in a vote based on this fact-finding report supported the opinion.   

But county commissioners — Tom Ferrell, Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo — all rejected it. A consensus between both sides would’ve ended the dilemma.

It’s unknown when a new agreement could be reached. The new three-year contract would run through 2016. Nursing home employees are working off the previous contract, which expired at the end of 2013.

To avoid a potential walk out, both commissioners and union representatives must strike a deal soon.

At stake: The 120 people or so living there today who’d need care from someone else if nursing home workers go on strike.

Both sides provided statements about the ongoing struggle.

“We have asked for our employees to become our partner and have a vested interest in not only our patient care but also with the financial stability of a taxpayer asset” Shenigo said.

Said Lisa Alexander, the nursing home’s union representative: “We have committed employees who care for the elderly in this community. We encourage the county commissioners to come to the table with us and bargain a fair contract. We are always willing to work with them”

Through financial data obtained from a public records request, the Register found several problems both sides disagree upon that require resolution. Also included: how much area taxpayers have fronted for certain expenses in question.

Conflict No. 1: pay raises

•What the union wants: salary bumps in each year for all employees.

The union’s desired pay scale for certain nursing home employees would look like this: 

— Year 1: 10 cents per hour increase.

— Year 2: 15 cents per hour increase.

— Year 3: 20 cents per hour increase.

•Financial fallout: Based on present-day payroll, the raises union representatives seek would total about $118,000 during the new contract’s life.

•What the county wants: no salary increases in the new contract.

County officials want to avoid allowing the nursing to operate under a deficit or create any more debt for county taxpayers. That can’t happen with salary increases, they said.

Officials countered by proposing a “success-sharing plan” in which employees can receive extra compensation based on the nursing home’s bottom line. A year-end surplus, for instance, would entitle employees to a bonus.

Conflict No. 2: sick leave cash conversion

•What the union wants: maintain a policy of cashing in accrued sick time, or pay employees can receive when not using all of their allotted unused days for health reasons.

In the most extreme example, employees putting in at least 21 years can receive a payout for all unused sick time at their full hourly rate.

Even employees who complete just one year at the nursing home can obtain a 50 percent payout at their fully hourly rate.

•Financial fallout: Area taxpayers fronted $31,000 in sick time for nursing home workers last year.

•What the county wants: limit payouts.

No other county entity or department, such as the sheriff’s office, receives this type of payout percentage for unused sick time.

Private nursing homes, meanwhile, typically don’t compensate employees for not using allotted sick time.

Commissioners just want nursing home workers to receive the same sick time benefits other county employees receive.

This would include workers only receiving a small portion of their unused sick time that’s eligible for a cash conversion.

Conflict No. 3: overtime pay

•What the union wants: maintain or possibly expand overtime opportunities for full-time workers.

Workers typically obtain overtime, receiving as much as double their hourly rate, during holidays and severe weather conditions.

•Financial fallout: Area taxpayers covered almost $272,000 in overtime costs for nursing home employees in 2013.

•What the county wants: use part-time help to offset overtime costs.

Commissioners also want to forego paying employees overtime during holidays and severe weather conditions.

Conflict No. 4: attendance bonuses

•What the union wants: keep bonuses employees get for simply showing up to work.

So long as nursing home workers record 80 hours every two weeks and get to work on time, they stand to receive an extra $12 per pay period.

•Financial fallout: Attendance bonuses cost $14,500 in 2013.

•What the county wants: eliminate this bonus.

No other county employee obtains an attendance bonus simply for showing up to work.

Comments

pntbutterandjelly

Sticky wicket

indolent indiff...

um, they want a raise, to be able to cash out the sick time, more over time, AND attendance bonuses? all on a facility that has been loosing money? the county should either unload this dump OR unload those workers

Elwood

Maybe it's time for the commissioners to realize they should rid the taxpayers of Erie County of this albatross. It is, and has been draining money from the general fund that could be used to reduce the county debt. The days for the government to operate a nursing home are over, they can not compete with the privately owned as long as they are paying the wages and benefits they are paying. Sell it now, let's cut our losses.

Keep Focused

The workers are just trying to do the best they can for themselves. The Commissioners will hold the line and soon a conservative contract will be agreed upon. The employees will need to agree on some things that allows the county to reduce their operating expense.

Use of part-time help is a concept that has great application to the situation and our community.

sandusky2012

.

Peninsula Pundit

It would serve every poster here right if they end up in a nursing home with part-time employees who receive no benefits and haven't had a raise in years. Go ahead and sit in your own crap until some part-timer gets around to wiping your wrinkly buttocks.
You need to have everyone show up for work at a nursing home for the sake of the residents. $14,500 yearly for the entire staff doesn't seem out of line.
In fact, if you look at the past practice, it appears that the contract is geared to encourage attendance. If it's a 'use it or lose it' sick pay arrangement, you can count on it getting used.
The total amount for all these listed benefits wouldn't be enough for 2 firefighters wages and benefits. When you count the amount of employees and the patients served, it seems like a reasonable per resident cost.

KnuckleDragger

Have you ever been inside the Meadows? The residents already sit around in their own crap for hours and aren't cared for as well as residents in private facilities in the area despite the staff already making above average pay for the area.

Dilligaff

I worked at the County Home for a couple years, and I completely agree with Peninsula. Trust me, you don't want part time help, who are not receiving a decent pay and no benefits, taking care of someone you care about. Being a CNA is one of the most unappreciated, overworked, and underpaid professions I've ever encountered. That being said, the union does need some adjustments to its contract. The policies that the union backs hurt good employees and reward the bad ones, and if the sick pay policy were 'use it or lose it', you would have every employee calling off at some point during December to make sure they get to use their paid leave.

pntbutterandjelly

My father-in-law (rest in peace) had been a resident there. CNAs are the first line of defense for our elderly (and not so elderly) friends and family. If their pay is allowed to stagnate or fall..working conditions, employee attitudes and resident care suffer proportionately. Therefore, I echo Peninsula Pundit's and Dillgaff's sentiments. The question I would like to pose is, "How much are the various administrators receiving?" There are two sides of the (no pun) coin. "Deficits" can be caused by many forms.

YoMamma

Why in the he11 is the county in the nursing home business anyway? Who are the mental midgets that said it would be a great thing for the county? Privatise it and tell the union to go F themselfs!!! It as stupid as the city running a golf course!

God Of Thunder

Unload this thorn in the side. The requests are outrageous, especially since no other county employee gets what they are asking for. Losses have been going on for how long??? Really??? They cut the budgets for every other department and still let this debacle go on. County or private, nursing homes are never the most pleasant place. Everyone is paid peanuts, and the owner reaps the benefits. They need to be a little more watched with ombudsmen/ombudswomen looking out for the residents.

Julie R.

"Everyone is paid peanuts, and the owner reaps the benefits."

You got that right. The ones that take care of the elderly are paid peanuts while the corrupt county reaps the benefits by defrauding the federal government program of Medicaid.

Darkhorse

The county cannot continue to waste tax dollars. No business would tolerate the loss and neither should a government entity.

God Of Thunder

Totally agree. The comment boards need to put like buttons on here.

BEHAPPY

I TOTALLY agree with Peninsula Pundit! Aren't the elderly in nursing homes worth being cared for by the workers who are NEEDED?? They sure are! And the workers who take care of them deserve to be paid decent~not an easy job. I'm so tired of watching all of the top dogs giving themselves raises continuously while our elderly and veterans suffer~it's beyond time to make this change~always remember~haters~one day you will be in a nursing home with people making minimum wage who just don't care and YOU will be the one to suffer~you will be there someday. Congrats to all of you workers for standing up for yourselves!

Dr. Information

Easy solution. Privatize it.

BEHAPPY

Yes, like I said~privatize for minimum wage to get workers who don't care. Wait until it's your time to go there Mr. Dr. Information and the patients suffer~cant wait~and you can sit in "it" all day ;)

Dr. Information

Sorry, but I know quite a few places that are privatized and their employees are doing well and so are the residents. I know, you government people, hold my hand because I need someone to lead me through my entire life, hate the word privatized.

samiam

When was the last time they received raises?
When was the last time other county employees received raises?
If the other employees received raises more recently than the home employees, how can the commissioners justify not giving them a raise?

Restless1

A bonus for coming to work? Are you freak'n kidding me? You come to work to get a pay. No show, no pay, simple math even for a public school graduate.

Willybear1

For starters, I believe the last year raises were given to county home staff, STNAs and LPNs was 2008 or was it 2007... The commishes did let the Health Dept, Sheriffs dept, and exempt staff get decent raises recently along with other many other county staff. But not the County home nurses and aides and ancillary staff. You also never hear of any commish going to cover staffing for the county home workers who are mandated almost daily to cover the NH and take care of people living there either. As far as the Overtime, if you don't have enough staff to begin with, you are going to run up the OT just providing basic minimum care levels. I know STNAs who have worked there, many who were on the 11p-7a shift and had to work alone taking care of 35 residents... they never saw a commish come out to help, and I bet none are willing to do that day after day either... would any of you either? As far as an attendance incentive, if you are mandated almost every day you show up to work, eventually you get burned out and either quit or start missing work, compounding an already insufficient staff to patient ratio and causing more overtime. They should get the 15 cents an hour for showing up their total 80 hours in 2 weeks, it prevents their shifts from having to need an overtime worker to cover it. Id rather pay $12 for a 2 week period than time n a half or double time to 1 worker for a shift... Being paid double for overtime on a holiday or weather emergency? It's only fair, would any of you work your regular shift then be mandated at regular pay for another shift, esp on Christmas or any other holiday or worse if a storm comes in and you are stuck short staffed there? H3LL NO you wouldn't and neither would any of the commishes. As far as the little Stein H deal where the county gave them beds for some $$$, truth is the employees got $100 out of that in part for giving up the beds and income for the home, but they still have to staff the stein unit along with the rest of the beds which stretched the help out even more...
If the home is in such a bad situation, why doesn't the apparently profitable Health department and its highly overpaid administrator Shade, take it over and operate it. Apparently he has more than enough money, what with paying his staff big raises and opening all those clinics for the indigent Erie Countians. If I recall, the county home was established to provide a place for our indigent county residents so they could be taken care of too when they needed it... Hmm now that may be the best idea yet since the county health department is already doing quite a bit of indigent health care services...
Sad part of this whole article, is the Register only gave people part of the story, leaving out many facts that would have made this articel more truthful... I say any of you who have negative comments, go talk to the workers and you will get the Rest of the story as Paul Harvey said many times...

The Bizness

Health dept. has its own board that approves wage increases, not commissioners.

YoMamma

Winerbear, if you don't like your job go get a new one with all the perks you desire. Why should I suffer because you want more? You are obviously making a lot of money, this is typical of the rich! We want more!!

Mr. D

Audit them. . . Around $6000 or more per month per resident, medicaid payouts plus what the nursing homes TAKE from the individuals (real estate, vehicles, life insurance cash value, savings). The counties make a lot of money off the elderly and those unable to care for themselves. Thats why counties are in the nursing home business.

Julie R.

So who is going to request an audit of the county owned nursing home? Kevin Baxter? We all know that's a joke. Also, it's the probate court in a county that is supposed to deal with Medicaid fraud, so I would have to say the nursing home owned by corrupt Erie County sure does have it made in the shade. (just like attorneys and dirty financial institutions do)

samiam

Sheriff's office workers, deputies, about 100 non union county workers and other union county workers received 1.5% raises while health dept employees received 2% raises, according to past articles in the SR.

If the 10 cents an hour raise that county home workers are requesting equals 1.5%, that worker is only making $6.67 an hour, not even minimum wage. Sounds like the county would be getting a bargain.

At least Willybear is thinking outside the proverbial box and offered an idea. The county commissioners raised our sales tax without a taxpayer vote recently. The health dept is considering raising the rates it charges for its clinics. Use some of that money to pay for the raises.

Isn't overtime pay for over 40 hrs per week or 8 hrs per day a state or federal law?

Private industry does not pay for unused sick days.

The bonus you get for attendance is keeping your job. Yes, health care workers get burned out and it's hard work. But if the hourly pay is decent, that should be incentive enough.

Private nursing homes have a large turnover in their employees and are understaffed for the price they charge the residents.

YouMustBeJoking

This is also a contract year for the Sandusky Transit drivers, and if what i'm hearing is correct, top priority is for a MAJOR increase in pay for the drivers. If not, a strike will likely happen.

donutshopguy

I can only hope they strike and SPARC goes under. Another government program that bleeds cash from taxpayers to help a few. It's time to stop this madness.

Keep Focused

Part-time employees are not some spurt of damaged goods. They are interviewed, screened, and could be required to have the same qualifications as full time workers.

In fact, the part time workers could actually be people who were full timers at one time. If required to be qualified, you can build more resources for those tight staffing situations.

YoMamma

Privatise it! That is the solution!!!

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