FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 22, 2018
PHILADELPHIA – Today, caregivers at Somerton Center in Philadelphia and Garden Spring Center in Willow Grove held informational pickets to demand their new owner, Vita Healthcare Group, respect the roles of all workers and pays living wages and provides affordable healthcare insurance.
Vita acquired Somerton and Garden Spring on June 1, 2018 and immediately put in place staggering wage cuts for the lowest-paid employees who are dietary aides, housekeepers, and laundry workers. Housekeeping and laundry workers’ wages are now capped at $12.50 an hour; dietary workers’ wages at $12.55. For longtime employees who were making up to $18 an hour, this means a pay cut of about $11,000 a year.
“These wage cuts are insulting and hurtful,” said Anthony Lambert, a housekeeper at Somerton Center. “These wage cuts say, ‘Because you are a housekeeper you are not valuable, you are not respected, you do not deserve fair pay.’ I have worked here for 23 years and know my coworkers and I deserve the higher wages we’ve fought to maintain through our union.”
In addition, Vita moved all workers into a new healthcare plan with significantly higher out of pocket costs. Workers will pay as much as $516 for coverage per pay period for the most expensive family insurance plan that will take effect July 1. Combined with the pay cuts, this essentially means many workers are earning virtually nothing.
“I just don’t know how I will pay for anything with cuts like these and a rise in health insurance costs,” said Ivorene Walker, a housekeeper at Garden Spring. “I am losing thousands of dollars in earnings and then expected to pay hundreds more in health insurance cost that I won’t even be able to afford to use if I actually do get sick or hurt.”
Other changes include the company’s decision to place all employees on a 90-day probation, no matter their length of employment, essentially making them ‘at-will’ employees with no recourse to challenge potentially unfair termination given the current lack of a union contract. Additionally, Vita notified several employees that they were opting to not rehire them with no clear explanation or advance notice despite their years of employment. This has left caregivers uncertain about the security of their jobs and their financial futures which impacts the facilities’ ability to retain qualified workers in these two nursing homes.
The approximately 200 caregivers are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. The workers are demanding Vita honor their union contract by restoring living wages and affordable healthcare costs in order to maintain family-sustaining jobs and quality resident care.