Either way, nothing good will come of this: http://articles.courant.com/2011-05-...-nursing-homes

Going into a negotiation meeting Thursday night, the owner of six Connecticut nursing homes, including Wethersfield Health Care and Newington Health Care, was threatening to lock out about 800 union workers because talks for a new contract had failed to progress.

The contract between HealthBridge and New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, expired in March. HealthBridge released a statement saying that it was "increasingly concerned that the Union is intentionally delaying negotiations by refusing to meet."

The company said that District 1199, part of the Service Employees International Union, had met with the company eight times in the past four months.

The union says the company is attempting to force a reduction of pay and benefits. Deborah Chernoff, a spokeswoman for District 1199, said the union is negotiating dozens of contracts at once.

Thirty percent of nursing home employees throughout the state are unionized.

"By their lights, we're not meeting enough, but I don't know what a greater frequency would produce," she said.

Chernoff said the company's proposal would make major changes to compensation, especially in health insurance cost-sharing and eligibility.

The average pay for nursing aides and janitors in the homes, which are also in Danbury, Milford, Westport and Stamford, is $15.36 an hour, and the rate last went up in 2009, when it increased by 50 cents, Chernoff said. Workers who are at the home for at least 20 hours a week can get individual health insurance, and those with 32 hours a week or more can get family plans.

Unionized workers pay nothing toward the cost of their health care premiums.

HealthBridge has proposed that only full-time workers can get health insurance, and that the workers will have to pay $176 a month for individual coverage, $593 a month for employee-plus-one and $954 a month for family coverage.

Chernoff said that proposal would make health care "totally unaffordable" for the bulk of the staff.

Pat Leja, a nurse with the company and the HealthBridge spokeswoman on the labor issues, said the company's health care cost-sharing proposal is negotiable, as are all proposals. She said that Chernoff's charge that the company is inflexible is unfair, and that "the union is still demanding free health insurance."

District 1199 recently reached a settlement with Spectrum HealthCare, ending a 13-month strike at four nursing homes in Connecticut. The HealthBridge statement was critical of the new Spectrum agreement, saying that unlike Spectrum, "our Centers' goals are to negotiate new contracts that reflect the serious challenges facing the skilled industry today."

HealthBridge refused to describe the profitability of its homes.

The company's proposal would also shave labor costs by stopping the practice of a paid half-hour lunch, so staff would be paid for 37.5 hours a week, instead of 40 hours, a 6 percent cut in wages for full-time staff.