Windemere employees plan informational picket over contract dispute

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

Members of the union that represents approximately 60 employees at the Windemere nursing home plan to take their contract dispute with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital management public.

Leaders of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have asked their members to join in “informational picketing” on Beach Road in front of the hospital and nursing home complex from 2 to 4 pm, Monday.

Jerry Fishbein, SEIU area vice president, said the core issues in dispute are wages and work rules that require employees to remain past their scheduled shift.

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. A tentative deal reached between the union bargaining team and hospital management was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership.

“I think there was some real frustration over the mandating [of overtime] in the facility,” Mr. Fishbein said.

The purpose of the Monday demonstration is to engage the public. Mr. Fishbein said the employees feel strongly that the community supports the Windemere staff and facility. “They want to make sure that the community understands the conditions under which they are working,” he said. “I think all the parties involved in this discussion are primarily concerned about resident care, but it becomes harder and harder to both do really critical valuable work, and work under those conditions.”

In a telephone call Wednesday, Windemere administrator Ken Chisholm said that union negotiations are a private matter and he could not comment on the details of discussions. “We are working diligently to try to reach an agreement,” Mr. Chisholm said.

Windemere has 74 beds and currently has 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 as with many nursing homes, Windemere has struggled to maintain a sound financial footing. For the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2012, Windemere ended $1,000 in the black.