If the state and its unionized employees could agree on $1.6 billion in concessions, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy thinks a New Jersey-based nursing home company and workers at its nine Connecticut homes can find common ground.
Malloy issued a statement Monday urging the company Healthbridge and SEIU 1199 to “find a way to work out their differences.” At issue is an ongoing contract dispute at the company’s nine Connecticut nursing homes, which has already led to a worker lockout at a home in Milford.
It’s not the first time the governor has chosen to weigh in on a labor dispute which did not involve state employees.
Last month, as negotiations between the American Red Cross and the union representing its blood collection workers soured, Malloy urged a three-week cooling-off period.
That statement came days after the devastating October snowstorm, as Red Cross workers were preparing to strike. Malloy said it’s natural for tempers to flare but said both sides should cool off in the interest of public health.
This time, the governor said the picket lines and lockouts caused by the contentious negotiations not only hurt the workers, but also the people they supposed to serve.
“It also damages the critically important relationship between the healthcare worker and the senior citizen that not only relies on their care, but also on the companionship that comes along with it,” he said.
Malloy noted that the union has succeeded in reaching agreements with over 40 other Connecticut nursing homes, “so it seems that a fair, reasonable contract pattern has been established that works for management and labor.”
The provider tax will also generate an additional $800,000 for Healthbridge this year, he said.
“While these are certainly challenging financial times for all institutions, one would think an influx of that amount of money would allow for a contract to be reached,” he said.
During the voting and negotiations process with state employees over the summer, Malloy was accused by more than one union member of bullying for statements he made to the press. However, 1199 President David Pickus said he found the governor’s Monday statement on the Healthbridge negotiations helpful.
“I think the governor understands we’ve reached agreement with over 40 other nursing homes,” he said.
Pickus accused the company of attempting to gut the contracts of its workers and of offering proposals it knew the union would reject as a means of union-busting. He said Malloy was right for highlighting that the company is getting more money from the state.
“He’s letting people know what’s taking place here,” he said.
Healthbridge did not immediately return an email request for comment.
Healthbridge owns nine nursing homes in Connecticut located in Wethersfield, Westport, Milford, Southbury, Newington, Stamford, Danbury and Cheshire.