Caregivers return to nursing homes after strike

August 7, 2010 2:02:53 PM PDT
A group of caregivers at two Oakland nursing homes returned to work this morning after a five-day union strike, but about 30 workers have been replaced by new employees hired during the strike, an attorney for the company that owns the facilities said.

Workers returned this morning to Piedmont Gardens and Grand Lake Gardens nursing homes after a strike that began Monday and "everything seems to be back to normal," said David Durham, labor attorney for American Baptist Homes of the West, which owns the facilities.

The strike, organized by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, involved about 150 employees at the two facilities. Some of the union members crossed the picket lines and came back to work before today, Durham said.

The union issued a statement Friday saying members feared they would be blocked from returning to work today because the company provided the nursing homes with temporary staff during the strike and was "threatening to make the change permanent."

Durham said all but about 30 employees were able to come back to work as of this morning. The employees who were replaced were placed on a preferential re-hire list in accordance with federal labor laws, he said.

"As openings develop, they'll be offered to those people first," he said.

SEIU-UHW officials were not immediately available for comment this morning.

The union has been bargaining for a new contract since February. In the statement issued Friday, the union accused management of "unfair labor practices that have hurt workers."

Durham defended the company's practices, saying the union "wants to change a disciplinary system that's been in place for 15 years, and we feel it's an unnecessary intrusion into basic management rights."

Details of the employees' health care plan is also a point of contention in negotiations, which have involved a federal mediator, he said.

There are no bargaining sessions scheduled in the immediate future, but Durham said he was "hopeful it'll be settled soon."

The statement by the union also expressed an interest in resolving the differences between the two sides.

"We stood up for our rights with a strike and we want to work things out with management to make these facilities better places to work and receive care," Gloria McNeal, a certified nurse assistant, said in the statement.


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