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Consulate workers take up signs in hopes of landing new contract

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
About 25 employees represtented by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania stand outside the Consulate Health Care facility along Saxonburg Boulevard in Indiana Township, where they held an informational picket, on Monday September 16, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Jennifer Monaghan, left front, an LPN, stands with about 25 fellow employees represtented by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania outside the Consulate Health Care facility along Saxonburg Boulevard in Indiana Township, where they are held an informational picket, on Monday September 16, 2013.

Consulate Health Care workers hit the picket line on Monday at the company's Indiana Township facility to call attention to their effort to get a new contract.

The union employees are not on strike, instead holding the informational picket during off-duty hours.

About 35 workers participated on Monday at the 121-bed facility along Saxonburg Boulevard. The site is one of more than 200 post-acute care facilities owned by Consulate across the country.

While standing along Saxonburg Boulevard across the street from Consulate, workers chanted “Be fair to those who care.” They wore signs reading “safe staffing now” and “patient care, not corporate greed.”

“We're here for our residents' needs and safety,” said Jennifer Monaghan, a licensed practical nurse at Consulate and a member of the union's bargaining committee.

Monaghan said she and other workers were concerned about patient safety because she alleges that Consulate has been cutting staffing levels and mixing psychiatric patients with geriatric residents.

The union is also concerned with its labor contract, which expired on Sept. 5.

The labor contract for about 100 nurses along with laundry, dietary and maintenance workers covered by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) expired on Sept. 5.

Consulate granted an extension of the three-year labor contract on April 22, and contract negotiations resumed on May 22, according to Amelia Abromaitis, an SEIU spokeswoman.

There were three bargaining sessions, with the contract extended each time until September, she said.

Employees are seeking renewal of a three-year labor contract, while the company is pushing for a one-year pact, she said. The negotiation sticking points are wages, benefits, low staffing levels, shortage of supplies for residents, and workplace safety, according to Abromaitis.

As for a new contract, Abromaitis said Consulate was proposing to cut overtime pay, increase health insurance premiums by about $60 per month for an individual and $150 for a family per month, and reduce workers' retirement benefits.

SEIU Vice President for Long Term Care, Matt Yarnell said, “Given Consulate's decent financial footing, we need them to put the needs of residents and workers ahead of the bottom line. This means properly investing in staffing, supplies and safety measures and not demanding cuts from their employees' wages and benefits.

Jennifer L. Trapp, Consulate vice president of corporate communications, declined to comment on contract details, saying the company would not speak about ongoing negotiations.

“We maintain that no parties involved should be engaging in dialogue or activities that could adversely affect the fair and timely resolution of these matters,” she said.

“The safety and well-being of our patients and employees is always our primary focus, and will remain so.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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