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Slate Belt nursing home workers ratify three-year labor deal

Morning Call - 8/9/2018

Aug. 09--About 50 health care workers at the Slate Belt Nursing & Rehabilitation Center have reached a three-year labor contract with their Ohio-based owner, Saber Healthcare Group, that their union says increases wages, restores pensions and provides other benefits.

Saber agreed to restore many of the standards that health care workers had obtained under previous ownership, according to the SEIU Healthcare union, which announced the deal Wednesday. Under the new contract, workers at the Bangor-area facility:

* Secured wage increases of $1.20 for the length of the contract;

* Retained their pension at the same level as under previous ownership;

* Kept intact the union's training and education fund;

* Restored benefit time that was lost and holidays that were taken away at the time of purchase.

The union said workers at the five Saber sites, including Slate Belt, overwhelmingly ratified the contract. Workers at Saber in Northampton County hold various jobs from housekeeping to nursing, said SEIU spokeswoman Jenn Landolina Wood. She said wages range from $10.25 for dietary aides and other entry-level positions, to $22.50 for licensed practical nurses.

Attorney Gregory Nicoluzakis, who is general counsel for Saber, said in a statement: "We are pleased to continue our positive working relationship with the SEIU, and look forward to each facility maintaining a consistent care environment for our residents."

Earlier this year, Saber, which is headquartered in Bedford Heights, Ohio, purchased Slate Belt and about a dozen other nursing homes in Pennsylvania from Oak Health LLC, after the nonprofit Oak Health was put into receivership, according to court records. At the time of purchase, Saber rejected the workers' contracts and instead implemented more than 40 terms and conditions at each facility, according to SEIU. The conditions included wage freezes, elimination of seniority, vacation and holiday time off, and a refusal to participate in the union's health insurance plan, the union said.

Workers at Slate Belt, a 126-bed facility in Washington Township, Northampton County, and at four other nursing homes held an informational picket June 1 to demand that Saber retain their wages and benefits. Other employees who participated in the picket at their locations were from Spruce Manor in Reading; Broad Mountain in Frackville, Schuylkill County; Mountain City in Hazle Township, Luzerne County; and Langhorne Gardens in Middletown, Bucks County.

Saber operates 111 facilities with about 10,000 beds in Pennsylvania and five other states, according to its website.

asalamone@mcall.com

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