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Editor’s Note: Ciena Healthcare management told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News early Monday that the company had reached a tentative contract agreement to avoid a strike at seven facilities. “Working together with SEIU Healthcare of Michigan, we are pleased to announce we have reached a new tentative contract agreement for our seven Ciena Healthcare managed facilities, averting a strike which was planned for this week,” said Senior Vice President of Operations Amy La Fleur. “This agreement was reached by labor and management working together, through mediation, to resolve problems. ” 

Seven nursing homes in Michigan are preparing for a strike, but their operator said employees’ 10-day notice of a labor walkout is premature. 

More than 500 workers at seven Ciena Healthcare facilities in the Detroit and Flint areas plan to start their strike Tuesday, local media reported. That’s down from threats last month to strike at 13 facilities. The Service Employees International Union Healthcare of Michigan has said the employees want better wages, benefits, and working environments. 

But Amy La Fleur, senior vice president for Operation at Ciena Healthcare told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News negotiations at each facility remained ongoing with none at an impasse. She said they have been pushing the union since late last year to add more bargaining sessions, but four of the seven facilities saw no talks from December through February “due to unavailability of the union negotiators.” 

“A strike now unnecessarily places residents at risk because our nursing homes are facing unprecedented challenges that limit our ability to solve all of the union’s demands and concerns in these contracts,” La Fleur said in her statement to McKnight’s, citing historic workforce challenges. “For three months, the union has stalled negotiations by being unavailable, and manufactured their now proclaimed urgency to move to a strike.”

La Fleur said negotiators at one facility — Regency at Westland — had their first bargaining session the first week of March and the union is already threatening to strike.

The Health Care Association of Michigan, which represents 358 nursing homes in the state, estimates that SNFs in the state have lost 10,000 workers since the start of the pandemic.  

In February 2022, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) approved a budget supplemental that included $300 million for healthcare facilities for staff recruitment and retention. As McKnight’s reported in January, while the $225 million earmarked for hospitals and $8 million for federally qualified health care centers had been distributed, the $67 million for nursing homes was sitting untouched. 

Whitmer’s 2024 budget includes funding to add $3.85 per hour to wages for nursing home workers, which La Fleur said Ciena supports. She said that the company “is confident” leaders can resolve all open contracts without the union resorting to a strike as they did last year at five Ciena-managed facilities. 

The facilities at which workers voted to strike are: 

•  Regency of Livonia, Livonia

•  Sheffield Manor LPN/SM, Detroit

•  Hartford Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Detroit

•  Regency at Whitmore Lake, Whitmore Lake

•  The Manor of Farmington Hills, Farmington Hills

•  Regency at Westland/Camelot, Westland

•  Willowbrook, Flint