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Staff Members Walk Out At Five Nursing Homes

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On July 3, union members went on strike at five Connecticut nursing homes, including the Newington Health Care Center. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

On July 3, union members went on strike at five Connecticut nursing homes, including the Newington Health Care Center. Photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ About 700 staff members at five Connecticut nursing homes followed through with a threatened strike on Tuesday to protest what they say are labor concessions imposed by the company that owns the facilities.

Nurses, nursing assistants as well as laundry, dietary and housekeeping workers were among those who walked picket lines more than two weeks after HealthBridge/Care One and the union, District 1199 of the Service Employees Union, broke off negotiations. The two sides had been negotiating for 17 months.

The nursing homes are in Danbury, Milford, Newington, Stamford and Westport.

Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for the union, accused the company of seeking to impose a contract that would cut working hours of employees, sharply increase health insurance contributions and ending employees’ pensions.

“It’s a very large number of many significant cuts,” she said.

The union accuses the company of acting illegally by trying to impose its “last, best offer” of contract terms.

Lisa Crutchfield, a spokeswoman for the company, accused the union of striking because it failed to pressure the company into accepting “unrealistic contract proposals any other way.”

“The actions of the affiliated Health Care Centers to implement their `last, best and final’ contract offers after 35 bargaining sessions and almost 17 months of negotiations failed to result in new agreements are fully legal, and the union knows it,” she said in an emailed statement.

Crutchfield said that the company has asked for concessions, but a raise will give most employees an increase of 17 percent over six years, which she said is fair and will allow the company to be competitive despite cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and other health care challenges.

“The union is demanding provisions from us that it doesn’t have in some of its contracts with other providers,” she said.

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, based in Hartford, said in April that the company insisted on proposals that were “predictably unacceptable to the union,” threatened to close facilities unless the union agreed to concessions and failed to negotiate in good faith. The company may dispute the allegations in a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Crutchfield said the company has not been found guilty in court of any violation and that the accusations “will be found baseless.”

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