New London – Unionized workers at Sound Community Services, a non-profit organization serving people with behavioral health and addictions issues, are set to vote on Friday on a deal that includes 20% wage increases for some members of the direct support staff, salary differentials based on seniority, and an increase in the employer’s contribution to health care.
Workers at SEIU District 1199 New England staged a three-day strike from April 24-27, then sent out indefinite strike notice beginning May 18.
Kindra Fontes-May, organizer for District 1199, said the company and union reached a tentative agreement on May 11 and called off the strike. She and Sound Community Services CEO Gino DeMaio shared details of the deal on Monday.
Residential recovery specialists and case managers will receive a $1.78 per hour increase, retroactive to July 1, with funds from an increase in the current state budget. This will bring the salary of residential recovery specialists to $17.15 and that of some case managers to almost $20.
The $1.78 increase is what Sound had been offering since before the three-day strike, but the deal also includes increases that go into effect next July 1, due to Governor Ned Lamont signing earlier. this month of a budget that includes an 8% increase for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
At that time, direct care workers will get another increase of $1.37 an hour. This means a total increase of $3.15, or a 20.5% increase for Residential Salvage Specialists. Clinicians, whose current rate ranges from $24.89 to $34.78 per hour, will receive a 1% increase for each fiscal year.
Even if Sound doesn’t get the state money until around August, it will be retroactive to July 1. DeMaio said Sound will have a much higher exit rate than other agencies, which will help attract people. Sound is hiring now.
Workers also receive additional compensation if they are required to continue working beyond the end of their shift, Fontes-May said. Employees used to receive the same rate regardless of their seniority in the company, but the agreement now provides for a 1% increase after five years and after 10 years.
The deal includes an employer contribution of $9,000 for health insurance, up from a previous offer of $7,000, up from a previous offer of $6,676.56. Both Fontes-May and DeMaio said it amounted to free health insurance for employees.
Fontes-May added that the agreement also includes June 16 as a new public holiday, the creation of a racial justice committee and the promise of disciplined worker reports broken down by race and ethnicity, so workers can verify. if there are any discrepancies.
She said it was a three-year deal with pay and benefits reopening next April.
A mediator ended up getting involved in the negotiations. DeMaio said the endless negotiations could have been avoided with more communication. Fontes-May said she believed the deal was made by management, seeing “the workers were serious about moving forward and improving their lives. They were specific from the start.”