With Chautauqua County under new leadership, the CSEA union is continuing its efforts to negotiate for County Home employees prior to the County Legislature's scheduled meeting with potential purchaser VestraCare, set to take place Wednesday in Mayville.
Representatives of the union met with County Executive Vince Horrigan recently to discuss issues relevant to the nursing home's workforce.
Steve Skidmore, CSEA Chautauqua County unit president, said he was encouraged by a sense of teamwork stressed by Horrigan.
"We hope we can take that sense of teamwork to the negotiating table and work out an agreement with the county before any decisions are made about the future of the Chautauqua County Home," Skidmore said.
However, the nursing home's future ownership will be decided by the County Legislature soon.
Last week, Horrigan announced private company VestraCare's offer of $16 million plus $1 million in potential improvements for the County Home.
This is the company's second offer, the first in the amount of $16.5 million, which was voted down by the legislature in October.
Horrigan called his meeting with the CSEA a "great exchange of ideas."
"I explained to the CSEA that I would be putting forth a proposal on the County Home, but we more than anything talked about how to work together on behalf of the employees and work through our issues, including communication," Horrigan said.
The union, which represents the majority of the County Home's 280 employees, presented previous county administrators with cost savings proposals and negotiation offers. but said those proposals fell on deaf ears.
"The proposals which would save hundreds of thousands of dollars while continuing the viability of the vital County Home should be fully considered and discussed before any vote on the home takes place," said Bonnie Peters, CSEA Chautauqua County local president.
A study performed by the Center for Governmental Research in 2012 presented county legislators with potential operational changes to reduce costs and increase revenue under county ownership.
"We need to work together as a team to implement ideas in the Center for Governmental Research report and to ensure this vital public safety net remains available for the county's seniors today and into the future," said Flo Tripi, CSEA western region president.
Suggestions included implementing electronic medical records (which was projected to save the county an estimated $500,000 annually); staff adjustments; and improving the resident-payer mix to include more patients on Medicare rather than Medicaid.
"We've been implementing these cost savings for the better part of a year-and-a-half," Horrigan said, adding there has been improvement to the resident-payer mix. However, the amount of savings from electronic medical records has yet to be seen, he said.
"We continue to see losses in the County Home, and continue to believe it belongs in the private sector," Horrigan said. "We (the county and the union) just have different perspectives."
Horrigan said he is confident many County Home employees will have the opportunity for employment with VestraCare if the facility is sold.
"I explained to the union that I really want to try to work through any labor issues to be able to get a contract," Horrigan said. "I'm confident that VestraCare will be very high-quality operators. We can grow the number of jobs in the county and the new owner could expand services, and that's exactly what I want to do."
VestraCare's presentation will take place at 6 p.m. (rescheduled from 6:30) in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville on Wednesday.