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Nursing home administrators reach accord with union workers; Proposed Odd Fellows contract includes no-layoff clause; third vote is Tuesday

Workers at Odd Fellow and Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center will vote on a proposed new contract for a third time, after negotiators agreed Friday on a key amendment.

The deal now will include an 18-month guarantee of no layoffs for workers who have put in at least 18 months of service as of Tuesday.

That's the same day the third ratification vote will be held.

The terms of the proposed contract otherwise are unchanged from the one that union members rejected twice: a 17-17 tie vote April 17 and a 31-28 defeat two days later.

Workers said at the time they were unhappy that the contract didn't include any job protections.

"I guess that was the piece that was holding it up," said Eugene L. Urban, administrator of the 126-bed not-for-profit nursing home on Old Niagara Road.

"I think the parties were happy that we were able to come to terms and reach an agreement that works for everybody," said Todd Hobler, vice president of Local 1199, Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers East.

He said all six members of the union bargaining committee signed the agreement Friday.

"I'm just happy for the residents and the staff," Urban said.

SEIU represents 110 licensed practical nurses, certified nurses' aides, laundry, dietary and housekeeping workers at Odd Fellows.

Hobler said because of the agreement, the union has canceled its notice of a one-day strike May 7.

The strike was authorized in a membership meeting Tuesday after Urban unilaterally imposed some of the terms of the proposed contract: a new health insurance policy and a paid time-off format to replace fixed vacation allocations.

The health plan involved higher employee co-payments, but the nursing home was to fund a health savings account that would pay the deductibles.

That meant workers wouldn't be hit in the pocketbook, but the nursing home would save money on premiums.

The union was unhappy that Urban didn't also implement the pay raises in the deal: lump sums of $140 to $350 upon ratification, with 1 percent raises in May 2013 and November 2013. Also, an additional raise of six-tenths of 1 percent was to be paid in May 2013 to workers who showed up for a full schedule in at least 15 of the preceding 17 weeks.