Contract in sight, Windemere employees cancel planned picket

The union that represents Windemere employees and management have been unable to agree on a new contract. — File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Windemere union leaders and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital management reached broad agreement Thursday on the terms of a new contract for approximately 60 employees at the Island nursing home.

Union leaders and management met Thursday at the bargaining table and after some discussion, reached an agreement that addresses wage and work rule issues.

Leaders of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have called off “informational picketing” planned for Monday afternoon.

“We will use the time on Monday, rather than picketing, to have a membership meeting to review the contents of that agreement, and to have a membership vote on it,” Jerry Fishbein, SEIU area vice president told The Times Friday. “Our committee is comfortable that it will pass, but it is really up to our members to ratify it.”

Mr. Fishbein attributed the new contract to the resoluteness of the union members and management’s interest in reaching an agreement. He said the critical issues had been addressed.

“It’s a negotiated agreement, so it is not always exactly what people want to see, but the committee was very comfortable with it,” he said. “We all recognize that these are challenging times for health care, and the leadership committee and nursing home are ready to take those on.”

Disputes included ages and work rules that require employees to remain at work past their scheduled shifts.

Although the hospital owns Windemere, the employees have separate bargaining units. SEIU hospital employees recently reached agreement on a new contract with the hospital.

The Windemere union members have been without a contract since October. The bargaining unit members overwhelmingly rejected a tentative deal reached last month between the union bargaining team and hospital management.

In a telephone call Wednesday, before the announcement of news of the tentative agreement, Windemere administrator Ken Chisholm said that management was working diligently to try to reach an agreement.

Windemere has 74 beds and 70 residents. The independent living unit is full, as are the Alzheimer’s and dementia units. The badly deteriorating building is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation.

Despite its physical appearance, Windemere has continued to finish in the top ranks when matched against mainland facilities, a result management attributes to the quality of the employees.

But Windemere has struggled to stay sound financially. For the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2012, Windemere ended $1,000 in the black.