Workers at Slate Belt Health & Rehabilitation and seven other Pennsylvania nursing homes get union contracts

After months of negotiations, employees at a Bangor nursing home and seven other facilities across Pennsylvania ratified contracts with Saber Health Care Group on Thursday, according to SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

Nursing home workers at State Belt Health & Rehabilitation were among about 500 across Pennsylvania who received three-year union contracts.

The terms of the contract include:

  • Increases of up to $3 per hour for some workers and average increases of 20% over the term of the contract.
  • Union health insurance and some other health services.
  • Pay scales and longevity awards that reward employees who have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A contractually enforceable obligation to secure staffing.

These contracts will help facilities meet the new staffing quotas demanded by unionized caregivers and given last year by updated state care home regulations, the SEIU said.

“These workers are tirelessly committed to their residents and have worked hard for a contract that will help get staff back to bed,” said Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union that represents nursing home workers in an explanation. “Through productive negotiations like with Saber, where we achieve a fair contract that invests in staff and residents, we can begin to raise the standards of quality care in all care homes.”

The other nursing homes covered by this contract include:

  • Broad Mountain Health & Rehabilitation Center in Frackville
  • Spruce Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation in Reading
  • Langhorne Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center in Bucks County
  • Ambler Extended Care Center, Bryn Mawr Extended Care Center in Montgomery County
  • Julia Ribaudo Extended Care Center in Wayne County
  • Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center in Luzerne County

As in other healthcare facilities, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a reckoning with nursing homes, which have been particularly hard hit due to residents’ susceptibility to COVID infection. These deals come amid action by collective household workers and promises by elected officials to address the issues the pandemic has laid bare.

Last year, Pennsylvania lawmakers and former Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration increased Medicaid payments to nursing homes by nearly $300 million annually and sent another $130 million in federal coronavirus relief to help hiring and retention to support workers. In all, about $600 million of Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget has been allocated to nursing homes. President Joe Biden also announced a federal commitment to nursing home reforms.

In September, disputes over their use led to strikes by unionized workers at 14 nursing homes, including Shenandoah Heights Healthcare in Schuylkill County and Gardens for Memory Care in Easton. These strikes were successful, and 700 workers across the state were awarded contracts that union workers found favorable.

“We now have deals in over 60 nursing homes across the state, often with pay rises in excess of 20%, which are critical to stabilizing this critical workforce,” Yarnell said. “Our negotiations with Saber show that when employers and employees roll up their sleeves, together we can invest this historic $600 million in federal funding into improvements in care that benefit everyone.”