HealthBridge Management, which operates five Health Care Centers in Connecticut currently subject to a strike by the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 SEIU (the Union), today provided an update on events as the strike, which began July 3, continued into its third week.
Formal Complaint: HealthBridge Management filed a formal complaint Thursday concerning multiple acts of vandalism and sabotage that occurred at three of the five Health Care Centers when members of the Union walked out on strike.
These acts of sabotage and vandalism included removing wrist bands from more than 30 residents, changing names on patient doors and wheelchairs, switching the names of patients in a memory care unit, removing stickers indicating how residents can be fed safely, tampering with medication records and removing handles from devices used to lift patients in and out of bed. Additionally, blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes were hidden and other property damaged.
The formal complaint was made in a letter to Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane, and pointed out the strong parallels between these criminal acts and similar strike-related sabotage against nursing homes in 2001 by the same Union. HealthBridge requested that a full investigation be conducted. The text of the letter can be viewed here.
Context of Negotiations: The context of the Health Care Centers' negotiations with the Union is one in which skilled nursing centers, in the steadily eroded U.S. economy, had suffered significant cuts and/or failures to keep up with increased costs in Medicaid – the primary funding for the vast majority of Center residents – and Medicare. Negotiations also occurred at a time in which the days of 100% employer-paid medical and other insurance, and 100% employer-paid pensions, were both long gone. HealthBridge Management knew that business as usual was simply not viable in the current economic environment.
Yet the Union demanded terms that showed no recognition whatsoever of the changed economic circumstances. It insisted that the Health Care Centers increase their pension contributions from 8% to 8.5% of Union members' salaries into the SEIU pension plan, with no employee contribution. The Union insisted that the Health Care Centers should continue paying 1% of the salaries of Union members into the SEIU Training Fund, when in fact it is doubtful whether many employees receive any benefit from this Fund. The Union also insisted that the Health Care Centers pay virtually 100% of all employee health insurance costs (until, late in the negotiations, the Union conceded that its members could pay a token amount).