Bridgeport rally (Cloe Poisson for 1199NE)

A Friday strike of more than 2,000 workers caring for people with disabilities in 200 group homes has been temporarily averted as state officials and union leaders continue negotiations, officials said.

The strike by members of New England Health Care Workers Union, SEIU District 1199, was set to start at 6 a.m., Friday unless negotiations for better pay, affordable health care and a path to retirement for workers yielded results, union officials said.

But union leaders were asked by Gov. Ned Lamont Wednesday to postpone the strike, at least temporarily, to give his administration time to analyze and develop options to address concerns, according to a letter issued by Lamont’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, and Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

The letter did not contain any figures on what Lamont would be offering workers or group home agency owners, but union members were willing to delay Friday’s strike based its tone, union officials said. 

“The administration will continue to work with all parties to avoid a work-stoppage, and we thank SEIU119 for working constructively with our administration and looking out for the people they care for by delaying this action,” Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said.

“Union group home workers are encouraged by Governor Ned Lamont’s outreach to discuss improved funding for their long-term care services, setting up an opportunity for new contracts and averting a strike,” SEIU District 1199 communications director Pedro Zayas said. 

The union issued new strike notifications for June 4 at Oak Hill, Network, Whole Life, Mosaic, Journey Found, and Sunrise, agencies that run 200 group homes throughout the state, after withdrawing Friday’s notices.

The union is seeking a pathway to $20 an hour to employees who provide direct care to group home occupants and $30 an hour for licensed practical nurses who provide support to group homes.

Union members also want more affordable health care, retirement benefits, better staffing and more respect for the job they do, union officials said.

“We look forward to discussions with Gov. Lamont about providing a level playing field for workers and their agencies to reach fair contracts and District 1199’s Long-Term Care Workers’ Bill of Rights calls for the State of Connecticut to lift caregivers out of poverty,” Rob Baril, president of District 1199, said. “This discussion is a step forward that was long overdue. We can’t have loving and dedicated caregivers being asked to pay health insurance premiums of more than $6,000 a month. Investments in our long-term care system will dramatically change the lives of the workers and people receiving care in our long-term care facilities.”

More than 3,400 workers from the same union were threatening to strike at 33 nursing homes on May 14 but those work stoppages have been delayed as state officials have offered more money to workers and nursing home owners.

The next round of nursing home strikes that would need to be staved off would start at 6 a.m. on May 28, union officials said. Several nursing homes withdrew their strike notices for June 7 when a tentative agreement was reached Thursday, union officials said. The agreement would have to be ratified by union members, officials said.