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A group of nursing home workers who threatened to picket their employer this week put down the placards after being promised more than $80,000 in bonuses their union says they are owed.

The local SEIU has been tussling with the owners of Safire Rehabilitation of Northtowns in New York over three types of bonuses that were negotiated to encourage retention. They had been paid since being added in November 2021. But employees said that since January, they are receiving only intermittent bonuses for working with COVID patients, picking up extra shifts or working when the building is short-staffed.

The union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, had organized a picket for Wednesday but canceled it after it said Safire’s owners agreed to include the bonuses in this week’s payroll. A union spokesperson said it would resume its plan to picket and hold a press conference on pay and working conditions if pay is not received by today (10/26/23).

Safire did not respond to a message left Wednesday for the administrator by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

The union said that Safire initially paid the bonuses without a signed agreement but “unilaterally” stopped awarding some of them, while paying others. Over the course of the year, the union has filed grievances and requested arbitration over the non-payment. In some cases, a press release noted, payments had been made incorrectly, further complicating efforts to resolve the issue.

Negotiations broke down this month, when the union said Safire refused to sign an agreement stipulating the bonus payment and then stopped paying the COVID bonuses. The 100-bed facility just in Tonawanda, north of Buffalo, has been treating COVID-positive patients since September.

 “Since September 19, we had the very first case of COVID,” licensed practical nurse Jennifer Sicignano said in a union statement. “At that time, we are to get $35 per day if you worked on the floor with a COVID patient. Everyone who works on the floor with a COVID patient, should get that pay. We’ve gone 3 paychecks without the COVID pay per day owed.”

Previously, management failed to pay a quarterly shift bonus in place since under previous contract, union officials said.

In addition to the COVID bonus, the facility had been paying a pick-up bonus of $50 to $75 per shift and $100 per shift staffing bonus when the facility was short-staffed.