Worker outcry: Governor plans to divert new SNF funding to managers' salaries, not all baseline workers

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A recent $35.5 million pledge from Massachusetts lawmakers to boost wages in nursing homes may not apply to all nursing home workers, a possibility that's raising concerns among the officials and advocates who pushed for the additional funds.

The pay boost, included in the state's budget, was intended to raise wages for more than 40,000 of Massachusetts' poorest-paid nursing home workers, such as housekeeping and dietary staff, according to the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

But the language in the budget describes workers who would get the pay bump as “direct care staff,” a label that  Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) administration plans to interpret as directors of nursing, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, a spokeswoman for Baker's administration told the Boston Globe.

Lawmakers who advocated for the pay raises expressed disappointment that the rule could be construed to leave out some of the workers hardest hit by poverty.

“The whole point of this was to reach the people really in the trenches, who do the heavy-duty labor in the nursing homes, so they aren't having to work two or three jobs to pay their rent and put food on their table,” State Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) told the Globe.

Officials with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East are urging Baker's administration to remove manager-level positions, such as directors of nursing, from the list of those who would receive the pay raises, and instead include housekeeping, laundry, dietary and activities staff.

The administration plans on holding a public hearing later this fall before the pay rules are finalized, the spokeswoman for Baker's office said. The pay raises are slated to start in November, and would be retroactive to Oct. 1.