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Published: Wednesday, 7/20/2005

2 nursing homes targeted for strike, 3rd is closing

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The Service Employees International Union said yesterday it plans to strike two area nursing homes Aug. 1 as a third home was being shut down because of lack of a labor agreement.

Meanwhile, a contract ratification vote is scheduled for tomorrow at a fourth nursing home represented by the union.

A total of about 300 employees is involved.

Jennifer Farmer, a spokesman for the union, said a meeting has been set for Monday to try to negotiate severance packages for the roughly 50 employees of Mariner Health Care of Toledo. She said five residents and one aide remain at the facility and it is in the process of closing.

Melody Chatelle, a spokesman for Mariner Health, would not disclose how many patients or employees are at the Byrne Road facility. She said only that no one has been asked to leave and families are deciding on their own to transfer nursing home residents.

Ms. Chatelle said "it is likely" that the facility, where employees rejected a contract that would have required them to pay for some of their health-care coverage, will close permanently.

She said she did not know if severance pay will be discussed at the Monday meeting.

Targeted for a strike are five Harborside Healthcare facilities in Ohio, including ones in Sylvania and Toledo.

A major sticking point is management's desire to have workers redirect a portion of their hourly wages to cover health insurance, according to SEIU District 1199. The amounts range from 44 cents to 70 cents an hour, it said.

In response to the strike date, Harborside Healthcare executives issued a statement that said the company has contingency plans, including hiring replacement workers and security personnel, to make sure residents are taken care of in case of a strike.

Meanwhile, roughly 80 union employees at Spring Meadows Extended Care are scheduled to vote tomorrow on a tentative pact that was reached yesterday, said Albert Jackson, a union organizer.

"It's not really concrete until the membership votes, but we got 100 percent paid health insurance and 50 cent [an hour] pay increases for the employees," he said.

Yesterday's agreement brings to five the number of Toledo-area nursing homes that have settled their contracts with the union since previous contracts expired July 1.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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