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Conn. Nursing Home Workers Hope To Return To Jobs

By DAVE COLLINS

NEWINGTON, Conn. (AP) â¿¿ Striking nursing home workers in Connecticut said Wednesday they were hopeful about returning to work next week under a judge's order after five months on the picket lines. But acrimony remained as the company that owns the homes balked at rehiring the workers and vowed to take the case to a federal appeals court.

About 50 of the 600 striking workers rallied outside Newington Health Care Center, one of five homes owned by Parsippany, N.J.-based HealthBridge Management where workers are on strike. They cheered Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny and continued to criticize the company for what they called its efforts to cut their benefits in order to boost profits.

"They want to be cutting everything," said picketing worker Sandra Gomero, a nurse's aide who has worked at the Newington home for 20 years. "They don't even appreciate how we've been working hard over here. It's no fair. Look at how they want to pay us back like this."

Chatigny's injunction ordered HealthBridge Management to reinstate all the striking workers by Monday, saying the company failed to bargain in good faith before unilaterally imposing a new contract in June on workers with District 1199 of the New England Health Care Employees Union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. Workers went on strike July 3.

Workers said that while the contract included pay raises, those increases were more than wiped out by charging employees for the first time for their health care insurance, reducing their working hours by 2½ hours a week, eliminating paid lunches and eliminating their pension plan in favor of a 401(k) plan. Workers with family health care plans would have to pay about $8,500 a year, the union said.

The National Labor Relations Board requested the injunction in hearing a union complaint accusing HealthBridge of unfair labor practices at the five homes â¿¿ Newington Health Care Center, Danbury Health Care Center, Long Ridge of Stamford, Westport Health Care Center and West River Health Care Center in Milford.

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