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Nursing home workers reject tentative contract; Lack of no-layoff clause in Odd Fellows pact suggested among possible sticking points

It's back to the bargaining table at a Lockport nursing home, after union workers rejected a tentative contract by three votes Thursday.

The vote was 31-28 against the contract settled Monday by management and union negotiators at Odd Fellow and Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, a 126-bed nonprofit facility on Old Niagara Road.

It was the second unsuccessful vote this week. Balloting Tuesday ended in a 17-17 tie, resulting in the revote at the nursing home. Tuesday's vote had been held off-site, at the Lockport office of Local 1199, Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers East.

The problem wasn't so much what's in the proposed contract as what isn't, said Sandra Condren, an environmental service worker.

"They refused to put in a no-layoff clause," Condren said. "Job security is one of the big things."

She also complained that workers transferring to Odd Fellows from other nursing homes are bringing their seniority and higher pay with them, meaning the newcomers are often earning more than Odd Fellows veterans.

"Because our step increases have been abolished, we don't have that anymore," she said.

"We're going to hold some membership meetings to see what the major concerns were," said SEIU spokeswoman Franchelle C. Hart, who said she was "surprised" by the rejection of the contract.

"They should have held a membership meeting two days ago," Odd Fellows Administrator Eugene L. Urban said. "They signed off and promised to support the agreement, and they go ahead and don't sell it to their membership."

"We did put out notifications about the vote. The bargaining committee would talk to the membership," Hart said.

Urban said, "I'm disappointed. I thought we had made a good effort to educate the staff that this was a good contract."

It included lump-sum payments for all workers upon ratification, with the largest payments, $350 each, going to full-timers.

The package called for a 1 percent pay raise for all 110 union members in May 2013, with an additional raise of up to six-tenths of one percent for those who worked a full schedule in 15 out of 17 pay periods. Another 1 percent raise for all workers was to follow in November 2013.

Workers were told a new Independent Health policy would maintain current benefits while reducing premiums and co-pays.

Hart said the union will suggest dates for more talks to a federal mediator.