McMurray Hills Manor pickets

Photo courtesy of SEIU

Caregivers at McMurray Hills Manor and supporters participated in an informational picket outside the Peters Township nursing home Monday.

About 100 members of the Service Employees International Union have been working at McMurray Hills Manor without a contract since June 8.

A number of them, accompanied by supporters, made their case for a new pact Monday by holding an informational picket outside the nursing home at 249 W. McMurray Road, Peters Township. The event was spread out over morning and afternoon sessions.

Contract negotiations are underway and the affected workers – who include licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, dietary staff and housekeepers – have concerns.

Foremost among them, according to an email from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union representing them, are: possible cuts to scheduled wage increases; “a draconian attendance policy that penalizes workers for using sick days they have earned”; and “other issues that would lower job standards” at McMurray Hills Manor.

The employees, according to the email, also are seeking respect from management and more training opportunities.

Joe Duplinsky, administrator of the facility, said the two sides have had two sets of negotiating sessions in recent weeks, each lasting two to 2 ½ days. Negotiations, he added, are scheduled to resume next week.

He said the possibility of pay cuts, at this juncture, “is premature at best. We haven’t gotten to that point. We have two parties with two different positions. These are starting points, then we go forward.”

Duplinsky, who has been at McMurray Hills for nine years, said the starting wage there “is over $15 an hour,” as negotiated in 2016.

“We were well ahead of the curve when the drum started beating nationally on a $15-per-hour minimum,” he said. “Our wages, if not at the top of the scale, are very close to that.”

Regarding sick days, he said the facility has had a time-and-attendance policy for years. “We need you to show up for work,” he said. “They want to drop time and attendance completely, and that’s not realistic.”

Duplinsky described McMurray Hills as “more of a traditional nursing home,” with 75 percent of its residents being long-term residents, 25 percent short-term who leave following rehabilitation.

“My revenue stream is Medicaid or Medicare,” he said, lamenting that Pennsylvania has capped reimbursements. “That’s a challenge for us. When a revenue stream is frozen, you lose a significant amount of money for each resident. I believe it’s $12 a day per resident.

“We’re in an industry that’s struggling. Everyone at the state and federal levels say this is an industry they want to keep, but no one wants to pay for. Whether it’s Peters Township or Ogden, Utah, it’s the same struggle.”

Mary Ellen Amos was at the forefront of the picket Monday, just as she is at the forefront of the SEIU at her workplace. Amos, an LPN, is the union chapter president there.

“I love this place, the people I work with, and the residents I care for,” she said in the email. “... I want to make this a better place to work, so that the best people want to work here and stay here. That’s how we provide the best care for the people inside who need us.

“If the administration doesn’t start thinking about how it can respect us and invest in us, then we aren’t going to be able to hire the new people we need.”

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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