On Friday, March 30, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members from Spruce Manor Nursing & Rehab in West Reading and Mountain City Nursing and Rehab in Hazelton held informational pickets calling for a swift contract settlement that provides employees with family-sustaining wages, affordable healthcare, and access to critical training and education opportunities.
In February, Saber Healthcare Group purchased the homes and refused to recognize the workers’ union contract, instead implementing 40 immediate terms and conditions including refusal to participate in the union’s healthcare plan, wages freezes and elimination of seniority, vacation and holidays.
“As a single mom, I need affordable health insurance, which it was under our old employer. But when Saber came in, they made our healthcare so pricey, I had to immediately put my kids on CHIP – I’ve never been on public assistance in my life,” said Lacey Bellows, a Certified Nursing Assistant, “Saber needs to provide affordable healthcare so we can take care of our residents without worrying how we are going to pay our bills.”
“I have worked at Mountain City for 35 years and helped build the union here. It took us decades of progress to achieve fair wages, affordable healthcare and access to training opportunities,” said Germaine Bonikowski, “We refuse to let a company like Saber come in and take away everything we’ve worked so hard for – we deserve better and so do our residents.”
In addition, Saber is also refusing to continue participating in the union’s Training and Education Fund that provides workers with low-cost skills enhancement and tuition reimbursement to advance their careers.
“I am taking online courses through the Fund to become a registered nurse but since Saber took over, my education is on hold,” said Kim Jackson, a Licensed Practical Nurse. “I can’t understand why Saber would want to eliminate a program that provides valuable training and education opportunities to its employers at low cost and has made a huge difference in residents’ lives.”
Spruce Manor and Mountain City, like many other nursing homes across Pennsylvania, have experienced a rapid succession of owners, including Extendicare, Oak Health and now Saber. Studies have shown that changes in nursing home ownership can lead to problems with quality of care. Just as continuity of caregivers is critical for high quality care, so is continuity of ownership.
Saber, headquartered in Ohio, currently owns 111 long-term care facilities, including 19 nursing homes and personal care facilities in eastern PA, and are considering purchasing additional homes. In Fiscal Year 2016, Saber’s 13 skilled nursing facilities in PA generated over $107 million in revenue and $1.8 million in profit. The 13 homes also sent over $5 million to companies owned by Saber. Eighty-nine percent of this revenue came from publicly funded Medicaid and Medicare.
Workers are hopeful Saber will hear their message and get back to the bargaining table. At this time, no additional negotiating dates are set.