A nurse working at a computer
Credit: FS Productions

Buyers of nursing homes would be required to preserve employee wages and benefits at a steady level for up to six months under a proposal that has earned a key legislative approval. 

The legislation in New Jersey, S. 315, would apply to all healthcare entities in the state, including licensed healthcare facilities, staffing registries or home care service agencies.

It would ensure that the sale or transfer of a facility does not affect the terms of a collective bargaining agreement in place until the expiration date, or six months after the deal. 

The proposal doesn’t, however, prevent new owners from laying off employees. But it must be done in order of reverse seniority, according to a report from NJ Advance Media. Buyers would also have to receive a list of all employees and what they earn 30 days before a deal closes.

The measure was approved by the state’s Senate health committee on Thursday and had its second reading in the Senate. Last session, the same legislation was approved in the state Senate, but did not get to a vote in the Assembly.

Proponents of the legislation, including unions, said it can serve as necessary protection for many long-term care workers, while opponents say it could prevent buyers from acquiring facilities. 

The 1199SEIU in early January decried the bill’s defeat in the previous session, noting “private equity firms have been buying up numerous skilled nursing facilities across New Jersey, slashing workers’ pay and benefits without notice and causing an exodus of employees at the very moment they are needed more than ever.”

Bill sponsor Joseph Vitale (R) said the stipulation would not damage healthcare delivery.

“The sky is not going to fall, no hospital is going to close,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, whose side are you on? Do we support multi-million dollars private equity funded nursing homes? Or are we on the side of those who provide the service?”