Facilities' bankruptcy filing marks latest twist in Connecticut nursing home strike

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The five Connecticut nursing homes involved in a high-profile workers strike filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday, citing monthly losses from contracts with union workers.

After an eight-month strike and legal actions that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, about 600 workers at the five nursing homes operated by HealthBridge Management are scheduled to return to work on March 1. They will work under the terms and conditions of their preexisting contract while a new contract is hammered out. They had gone on strike after negotiations over a new contract broke down.

The bankruptcy filing comes less than a week after the employees' union — New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU — trumpeted the return to the work as a triumph. The filing pertains only to the five facilities in question, not to HealthBridge Management as a whole. With the workers back on the job, the facilities will begin losing about $1.3 million each month due mainly to provisions of the workers' collective bargaining agreement, HealthBridge says. Total per-day benefit costs for the five nursing homes are 24% higher than at other unionized Connecticut facilities, the company says.

The HealthBridge facilities are seeking court approval to continue routine operations, including paying vendors and employees, while reorganizing under bankruptcy protection.

The Chapter 11 filing is a “cynical evasion of responsibility,” said David Pickus, president of the workers' union. HealthBridge slammed the union's statement proposing the facilities go into receivership rather than bankruptcy, saying the union is trying to "skirt any blame" for the facilities' fiscal difficulties.
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