Employees at the Belknap County Nursing Home have rejected a new employment contract offer, and will seek support from the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors to take action. The actual vote count was 33 against and 14 for the tentative agreement.
The vote marked a setback in a four-year effort to reach a joint deal with the Belknap County Commissioners, who negotiate agreements, and the Belknap County legislative delegation, which must fund agreements. The parties have been unsuccessful in reaching a contract since 2012. Employees have been without pay raises during this four year period.
“At a time when the economy is very strong and the rate of inflation is stable, it is clear that the Belknap County Nursing Home employees deserved a better contract from the Commissioners,” chapter Vice President Candie Harriman said.
The Belknap County Commissioners offered a minimal wage adjustment in exchange for significant health insurance concessions from employees. Its contract offer provided for an immediate 1.4 percent raise and a bonus check of $1,000, although the Union expressed concern regarding wages for long-term employees. Many of the employees are maxed out at their payscale and no longer have an opportunity to increase their income, other than seeking employment elsewhere.
“The Belknap County Nursing Home has some of the very best care-givers in the state of New Hampshire largely due to the long-term commitment of many of its employees,” said Rich Gulla, the President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “In the instance of this contract, the employees would essentially be funding their own raises by agreeing to such a low wage increase.”
“Although we are disappointed by this outcome, we are eager to get right back to the bargaining table and reach a more mutually beneficial agreement,” Gulla said in a message to members.
“The Belknap County Nursing Home is a five-star facility due largely to the daily commitment of our employees,” said Tanya Phillips, Belknap Nursing Home chapter president.
The rejected Tentative Agreement means that the parties will revert back to the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement which remains in status quo, until which time a new contract agreement is achieved.