Windemere employees agree to new contract

— File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Windemere employees Monday overwhelmingly voted to accept the terms of a new contract agreed to by union leaders and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital management last Thursday.

“The issues were resolved for the year and we are looking forward to working with the nursing home on some political work we have to do to get the state to pay attention to Windemere and make sure they are reimbursed correctly,” Jerry Fishbein, SEIU United Healthcare Workers East vice president told The Times in a telephone call on Tuesday.

Windemere administrator Ken Chisholm said he was happy to have the issues resolved so he could focus on the many other challenges the nursing home faces in caring for members of the Island community.

Mr. Chisholm said SEIU represents many nursing homes and would be a welcome ally in the continuing struggle to overcome escalating costs and decreasing reimbursements.

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

Following the agreement, union leaders called off “informational picketing” planned for Monday afternoon.

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.”

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 had been without a contract since October.

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.