The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU and Sunrise Northeast have come to a tentative agreement to end a nearly two-month strike at the company’s group home and day programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, union officials said Wednesday.
The terms of the tentative contract will not be disclosed until they are ratified by union members working at Sunrise, officials said. The ratification is expected to take place in the next 48 hours, said Jesse Martin, a vice president with the union.
In the meantime, the union is working with Sunrise Northeast to transition the workers back to their jobs while considering COVID-19 protocols and the return of the clients, who in some cases had been placed in nursing homes during the strike.
The workers are expected to overwhelmingly vote in favor of the proposed contract, Martin said.
“Last night we reached a tentative agreement with Sunrise. With this contract we have achieved historic wage increases, real affordable healthcare and a retirement with dignity,” said Charmayne Brown, who has worked at Sunrise for 14 years. “My coworkers and I look forward to getting back to our clients whom we love and miss.”
Striking workers rallied last week in Hartford to decry a memo sent out by Sunrise Northeast indicating that they would be replaced by permanent staff. Sunrise Northeast operates 28 group homes and day programs for disabled adults in 17 towns including Hartford, East Hartford, Old Lyme, Waterford, and Enfield.
The 150 workers who have been on strike since Oct. 12 wanted a similar contract that other group home companies negotiated earlier this year including wage increases, more affordable health care premiums and a path to retirement.
The tentative agreement is retroactive to July 1 and will end in March of 2023, union officials said. A representative from Sunrise Northeast did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Sunrise Northeast announced recently that it offered the union pay raises for staff of 4 to 7% two years in a row, $1,000 payments to employees, the health care proposal the union wants and additional contributions to the retirement plan to end the strike, according to the company’s Executive Director Dawn Frey.
But union officials turned down the offer because the company wanted to withhold retirement benefits in exchange for not requiring random drug tests for cannabis use.
“We see this agreement as an enormous step forward in the fight for economic and racial justice,” said Stephanie Deceus, a vice president with the union.