Earlier this week, workers at Belknap County Nursing Home voted by a vast majority to accept a tentative agreement reached between the collective bargaining teams of the workers and the county administration.
The tentative agreement provides for a modest cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 1.5%, which is the first raise the workers will have received in the last two years. The employees, who provide care for our seniors have been watching consumer prices climb as their income has remained the same. “We haven’t had a COLA in two years, while the cost of everything else increases,” said Ricky Nedeau, a member of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining unit. “It’s a small adjustment, but it moves us in the right direction.”
The respective bargaining teams arrived at an innovative approach to help contain the costs associated with the workers’ health care benefits. All nursing home workers will be mandated to participate in wellness activities designed to make them healthier and more informed about their personal health. “It’s become clear that we need to think outside the box to help lower health insurance costs,” said Tanya Phillips, treasurer of the union chapter at the Nursing Home. “Becoming healthier and more health conscious is a great first step in that direction for Belknap County workers.”
The contract will next go to the County Commissioners for approval. Following that step, the contract will go to the County delegation that will need to make a supplemental appropriation, as the funds for the 1.5% increase were not included in the budget.
“We understand that the delegation has been concerned with the administration of the budget,” said Nedeau. “We get that. But, we don’t want to be caught in the middle. With this supplemental appropriation, the delegation has the opportunity to pinpoint the flow of funds to the lowest paid workers in the county.”
“We rolled up our sleeves and ironed out an agreement that includes a mandate for us to take a step toward accountability regarding our health care,” said Phillips. “Now we want to see a similar sign of good faith by the delegation by appropriating the funds to help our families meet our financial obligations. We take care of one of our county’s most vulnerable populations. We care for them with full commitment and respect. We just want the delegation to show us the same consideration. I hope folks in the community will get behind us and call their state Rep. to support the Belknap County Nursing home workers. We need their help.”