Lockport health facility wants more part-time jobs

January 19, 2012 Updated Jan 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Tracey Drury, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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January 19, 2012 Updated Jan 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM EDT


Administrators at the Odd Fellow and Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Lockport say the organization's proposal to change some positions from full-time to part-time will result in more consistent staffing levels, and save the organization money without any employees losing their jobs.

The organization is in negotiations with 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in an effort to identify cost saving measures. The 110 workers represented by the union announced this week they will hold an informational picket Jan. 25 in response to pending layoffs.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, management officials say the layoffs are a result of collective bargaining language that requires the full-time positions to be cut, allowing union members to bid on available part-time positions based on seniority and bumping rights.

"They're a reduction in hours, but we have a position for every one of our employees but we have reorganized our operation to less full-time and more part-time employees," says Colleen Lofft, director of finance.

Changing the positions actually add hours, but allows the organization to reduce its costs for health insurance: Full-time employees are covered 100 percent, while part-time employees must make a contribution toward costs. This year alone, Odd Fellow absorbed a 24 percent increase in health care premium costs, Lofft says.

"From an operational point of view, we feel we can reduce overtime and reduce some other healthcare costs but also still staff at levels warranted to be able to give good resident care," she says.

Workers covered by the current agreement include licensed practical nurses, certified nurse's assistants, housekeeping and laundry and dietary workers. Employees have delayed two scheduled wage increases and in November, the 110 employees represented by the union took a cut in hours, bringing full-time workers from 40 to 37.5 hours. The union says layoffs will lead to short staffing issues.

The cuts in hours followed the cuts in reimbursements from the state of nearly $700,000 that took effect in June. New Medicaid rate methodology also requires the organization to pay back $536,714, Lofft says.

"We had to stop the bleeding and started reducing hours," she says. "Our intent was never to lay off any employees."

The Old Niagara Road facility in Lockport, sponsored by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, provides long-term care and rehabilitation services as well as respite care up for periods up to 30 days. With revenues of $10.2 million in fiscal 2010, the nonprofit organization has a total of 175 full- and part-time employees. The 126-bed facility includes 20 rehabilitation beds, and 106 skilled nursing beds. Occupancy averages 94 percent.

Eugene Urban, CEO and administrator, says the organization has been struggling with reimbursement cuts from Medicaid and Medicare for the past five years.

"The majority of our residents are Medicaid, and the decreases over the years have been substantial," he says. "It's an increasing challenge to remain cost-effective."

Four bargaining sessions between SEIU and management have been held over the past week, with another session slated for Jan. 20. The picket will be held if a settlement is not reached, the union said.

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