SEIU protest (Shana Sureck / photo)

Lawmakers are hoping to avoid a nursing home strike, but it seems imminent as the union representing the workers has declined a proposal by Gov. Ned Lamont to increase funding for the homes and the workers by $280 million. 

“Hearts in a yard are not enough. Being called heroes for one year is not enough,” Dori Harrington said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. 

Harrington, a licensed practical nurse, says the additional $280 million Lamont put on the table is not enough. 

“The proposal that Gov. Lamont has made for two years does not solve this problem. That only fixes the problem until he’s out of office,” she said. 

Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds Jr. said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw told SEIU that the $280 million funding package, which includes a 4.5% pay increase for workers, “was the best and final offer.” 

“It provides for the highest wage increase we’ve ever seen for these frontline workers,” Mounds said. 

Rob Baril, president of District 1199 SEIU, says the governor’s proposal falls far short of what they need to stabilize the workforce and provide care. 

“You cannot recruit people to come in and staff nursing homes at $16.50,” Baril said. 

He said that’s what the governor’s proposal would get them to. The unions are looking for $20 an hour. 

“They need a livable wage, health insurance and the ability to retire,” Baril said. 

On Friday around 3,000 workers from 26 homes are prepared to strike. Strike notices at seven homes were delayed until May 28. A strike will cost the state around $2 million per day. 

The Department of Public Health approved strike contingency plans filed by the owners of 26 skilled nursing facilities, a major step toward ensuring the health and safety of residents in the event unionized staff go forward with a strike at the facilities Friday morning.

Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said contingency plans were approved for nursing homes owned by iCare Health Network, Genesis Healthcare and Autumn Lake Healthcare, including critical provisions for staffing, security, pharmaceuticals, essential supplies and necessary services to meet the needs of residents. 

DPH has withheld approval for seven nursing homes owned by RegalCare, based on lack of sufficient staffing arrangements, Gifford said.

“As long as the parties keep talking, today and tomorrow, I’m optimistic they can get there,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Wednesday.  

Ritter says he wants them to reach a deal. 

“Both sides have merit in their arguments right so if they can recognize they both have different functions, different responsibilities and different view points, I think we can get there,” Ritter said. 

The association representing the nursing homes declined comment. 

“It is unsafe for us and for our patients. They are not getting the care they need because we don’t have the staff to provide it,” Harrington said.