Nursing Home Workers Began Receiving Some Of The More Than $80,000 Dollars in Owed Bonuses Thursday At Embattled Tonawanda Nursing HomeOctober 27, 2023
Informational Picket & Press Conference Set For This Week Called-Off After Downstate For-Profit Owners Began Paying Two of Three Owed Bonuses.
Tonawanda, NY - Caregivers hit hard by COVID-19 over the last several years were working without employer promised bonuses since January 2023. Workers were set to picket the embattled Tonawanda facility this week when their employer again promised to begin paying more than $80,000 in earned bonuses. After the for-profit employer failed to pay three different types of bonuses on three different occasions, the union filed grievances on behalf of caregivers and attempted arbitration. Caregivers are members of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East.
“It feels good to get some of our bonuses, but they’re still piecing it out and we are still fighting for our COVID pay,” said Iris Purks, 1199SEIU Delegate.
“I love my job at Safire Care,” said Tyesha Carr, Licensed Practical Nurse. “I am happy that the company finally paid us some of the bonus money that we have been patiently waiting for. This is the beginning and moving forward I hope that they can continue to pay us on time and as promised per our agreement,” said Carr.
Union members agreed to a variety of bonuses to help properly staff the Tonawanda facility with nurses and aides to help care for residents. Caregivers spoke out to demand they be paid the bonus properly for months. Two of the three bonuses will now be paid from the downstate for- profit ownership group, that had not been paid in months or were paid intermittently. To date, again the employer failed to pay the COVID bonus, despite promising workers a bonus to care for COVID positive residents in the facility. 1199SEIU will move swiftly to arbitrate over the COVID bonus next month.
The informational picket set for this past Wednesday was called-off by a vote of the workers, once the employer promised to begin paying workers properly. The press conference set for today at 12:00 noon is cancelled.
1199SEIU negotiated a COVID bonus, a pick-up shift bonus, and a short-staffing bonus with the employer. For employees who work on a unit with active COVID-19 cases, the agreed upon bonus is $35 per shift. To assist with filling open shifts, alleviate critical staffing, and improve resident care, the agreed upon pick-up shift bonus is $50-$75 per shift. Lastly, when the employer is unable to fill open shifts and employees are working short as a result, the agreed upon staffing bonus is $100 per shift (increasing to $150 per shift when an employee works alone on a unit).
Initially, the owners of Safire Rehabilitation implemented bonuses without a signed agreement in November 2021. However, recently and without notice, the employer unilaterally ceased some of the bonuses, while maintaining others. In an effort to enforce these agreements, 1199SEIU filed grievances and requested arbitration on behalf of workers. The for-profit down state employer continued to delay the process, refusing to accept offered dates for meetings and verbally offering settlements with little to no follow-through on three different occasions. In some cases, payments were made to workers, though incorrectly, further complicating efforts towards resolution.
More recently this week, after yet another meeting, a settlement was nearly possible to pay the monies owed and to continue the bonuses moving forward. The employer again refused to sign the agreement and subsequently also ceased paying the COVID bonuses (which already had a signed agreement). A few weeks later, Management failed to pay a quarterly shift bonus that has been in place since the previous contract more than 2 years ago and has since promised and failed twice to pay it.
With the recurrence of COVID in the facility, employees say the COVID bonus is owed since September. “Since September 19, we had the very first case of COVID,” said Jennifer Sicignano, Licensed Practical Nurse. At that time, we are to get $35 per day if you worked on the floor with a COVID patient. Everyone who works on the floor with a COVID patient, should get that pay. We’ve gone 3 paychecks without the COVID pay per day owed,” said Sicignano.
About 70 Nursing home workers at the facility in Tonawanda are represented by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East work as Certified Nurse Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses, and Unit Clerks.
According to the New York State Department of Health, Safire Care of the Northtowns is a 100-bed facility and is owned and operated by Judy Landa, Richard Platschek, Solomon Abramczyk, Robert Schuck, and Moshe Steinberg1.
In 2022, the nursing home received a documented fine for short-staffing.2 According to Center for Medicaid Services, Safire Rehabilitation of the Northtowns was out of compliance with staffing standards 45 out of 90 days in the 4th quarter last year.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.