SEIU Protect (Shana Sureck/ photo)

Group home workers withdrew their plans to strike this morning after reaching a $184 million state funding agreement with the state.

The strike would have involved 2,100 members of the New England Health Care Workers Union, District 1199 who care for residents of about 200 group homes throughout the state.

The union was seeking $20 an hour for caregivers and $30 an hour for licensed practical nurses, more affordable health care and a path to retirement as part of contract negotiations with several group home owners.

The homes receive state funding to operate but have not gotten an increase to provide higher wages in more than a decade, union officials said.

The state funding package agreed early Friday meets the union’s needs, said District 1199 President Rob Baril.

“We believe the additional funding will resolve the open contracts,” Baril said. “We have made substantial progress toward our goals for a $20 minimum wage, with major progress on retirement and other benefits.”

Baril called the agreement a “great victory” for the group home workforce which is predominantly women of color and said that all strike notices at the home have been withdrawn. 

Hours before, the CEO of one group home chain was moving residents to consolidate management staff because no temporary workers were available to fill positions if a strike occurred.

Most of the residents of Oak Hill group homes have developmental intellectual disabilities and have high medical needs, said the agency’s CEO Barry Simon.

Simon spent much of Thursday trying to determine when it would be time to also move 200 residents to nursing homes to see to their care as negotiations continued.

“What the union is asking for is not unreasonable,” Simon said Thursday. 

The state pays Oak Hill and the other agencies to run the group homes, but the state also sets the rates they receive, he said. “If they don’t adjust the rates, we don’t have the ability to provide wage increases,” since the group homes are fully funded by the state, Simons said.

The state has not increased the rates in 14 years, he said. Oak Hill runs about 70 of the 200 group homes that would have been impacted by the strike.

The new funding agreement for group home workers at Oak Hill, Whole Life, Sunrise, Network, Mosaic and Journey Found marks the second major settlement for long-term care workers in Connecticut in the past month. Recently, over 4,000 union nursing home workers won new contracts with improved wages and benefits.