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Union hails new contract with Oregon’s largest nursing home chain

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Workers at Avamere, Oregon's largest nursing home chain, have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract that aims to address long-standing problems in the industry, their union announced Monday.

Here's the full news release from SEIU Local 503:

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the low wages, high turnover and susceptibility to infectious disease in congregate care settings. This new agreement marks the first major movement by the industry to raise standards in response. 

“This contract will save lives,” said Melissa Unger, Executive Director of SEIU Local 503, Oregon’s care provider and public services union. “With more than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in Oregon occuring in long-term care settings, workers and management understood that we needed to work together to solve problems and create better outcomes for our seniors. Today we have set a new standard for the entire long-term care industry.” 

Now an industry leader on wages, staffing and training, Avamere is taking the bold steps needed to move the long-term care industry forward. 

Here are the key points in the new contract: 

  • Reducing turnover: Turnover is a critical metric in long-term care. The wage, staffing, working environment, and training standards below will go a long way toward retaining staff and improving the quality of care people receive. 
  • Wages: This contract raises wages to reduce turnover and provide residents with consistent, high-quality care. The new contract includes an $18 per hour wage floor, which will be as much as a $4 raise for some workers. This is the highest wage floor in the industry in Oregon.
  • Staffing: This contract addresses staffing shortages to ensure that residents always get the level of support they need. Avamere has agreed to implement an acuity-based staffing pilot for CNAs. Acuity-based staffing takes into account the needs of residents, not just their numbers, and will typically result in more staff per resident. The contract also creates staffing ratios for CMAs and housekeeping staff, which is above and beyond what’s required by law.
  • Training: New training standards will ensure that newly hired CNAs are mentored before being added to shifts. The contract creates a preceptor program, common in the healthcare industry, in which CNAs will have the time and support they need to train new hires. The contract also includes a commitment to improve training above what’s required by law, with details to be worked out in a labor-management committee.
  • Career ladders: The new contract creates career ladders by increasing wages for CNA2s, which is a higher level of certification. This will help retain employees who seek career advancement.
  • A voice for workers: The new contract creates a labor-management committee where workers and company leadership can cooperate on issues year round. The contract also creates a pathway for non-union homes in the company to join the union through a “card check” process, which is an expedited way for workers to win a new union. 

"This job is not an easy job,” said Loraine Akeem, a CNA at Avamere Lebanon. “It takes patience and endurance and yet every day we go back and do it again. We do that out of love and passion for what we do. This agreement will give all Avamere members the respect they deserve for the work they do." 

"My goal in bargaining this year has been to get the job of a CNA recognized for the noble profession it is,” said Michelle Ogno, a CNA at Avamere Oregon City. “An $18 per hour wage floor will help new CNAs feel the respect their career deserves." 

The tentative agreement will go to a vote of the union’s membership, where it is expected to be ratified. It will go into effect on May 1. 

KTVZ news sources


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