BREAKING: Nursing Home Workers To Begin Receiving More Than $80,000 Dollars in Owed Bonuses Thursday Calling Off Picket Outside Embattled Tonawanda Nursing HomeOctober 25, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: October 24, 2023
Contact: April Ezzell, 1199SEIU Communications (716) 449-1620
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Informational Picket Set for Wednesday Is Now Called-Off. A Press Conference Will Be Held Friday If Caregivers Do Not Begin Receiving Their Earned Bonus Money.
Tonawanda, NY - Caregivers hit hard by COVID-19 over the last several years have been working without employer promised bonuses since January 2023. Workers were set to picket the embattled Tonawanda facility tomorrow, but their employer has again promised to begin paying more than $80,000 in earned bonuses in this week’s payroll starting Thursday. Caregivers are represented by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East.
“We are owed thousands of dollars in bonuses that we were promised and agreed upon,” said Jennifer Sicignano, Licensed Practical Nurse. “It was past practice and it had been paid. The employer stopped it abruptly without any rhyme or reason. We come in and do our job and we work extra to help with our families. We come in and get our paycheck and it’s 3/4 less than what you expected. When we try to bring it to the owners, they tell us we are greedy and ungrateful, but we worked for it and took care of our residents and promised the bonuses,” said Sicignano.
Union members say they agreed to a variety of bonuses to help properly staff the Tonawanda facility with nurses and aides to help care for residents. There are three bonuses workers should be receiving from the downstate for-profit ownership group, but have not been paid in months or were paid intermittently.
Today, the employer has again promised to pay bonuses in this week’s payroll for workers. The informational picket set for Wednesday has now been called-off by a vote of the workers. Should caregivers not receive their earned bonus money, 1199SEIU will reschedule the picket. A press conference will be held Friday, October 27 at 12:00 noon outside the facility at 2799 Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda.
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. However, recently and without notice, the employer unilaterally ceased some of the bonuses, while maintaining others. In an effort to enforce these agreements, 1199SEIU has filed grievances and requested arbitration. The for-profit employer has continued to delay the process, refusing to accept offered dates for meetings and verbally offering settlements with little to no follow-through. In some cases, payments have been 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. However, the employer again refused to sign the agreement and subsequently also ceased paying the COVID bonuses. 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.