ST. LOUIS — Workers at St. Louis nursing homes spend their lives caring for others; however, they don’t necessarily want to sacrifice their lives to do their job.
That’s why they’re demanding protection over profit.
Front line nursing home workers protested Wednesday, calling for better protection at work. They gathered at Royal Oak Nursing Home & Rehab during an afternoon shift change.
Monica Mondaine said she was terminated from her position at Royal Oak after asking for time off when the center received its first positive COVID-19 confirmation. Asthmatic, Mondaine said she feared for her own health.
A representative for Royal Oak, Craig Workman, denied the claim, adding "employees were offered an opportunity to continue employment with us and did not lose their job because of this action."
"Our employees may apply their accrued sick, personal holiday and vacation time to be paid out and used first as part of their leave," Royal Oak spokesman Craig Workman said in a statement. "Upon return from a leave of 60 days or less, Royal Oak will reinstate our employees to the last position he/she held or an equivalent position."
Their demands include:
- Paid time off for those forced to quarantine
- Proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Hazard pay for workers during the outbreak
Workers held signs spelling out these demands while practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
This comes as 10 residents and three workers at Royal Oak Nursing have tested positive for COVID-19. That nursing home is owned by the same management group as Frontier Health & Rehabilitation in St. Charles, where 12 residents have died from the virus.
Shunda Whitefield, a certified nursing assistant from the Estates of Spanish Lake Nursing & Rehab, said she was told to keep coming to work, despite being exposed to a resident who had tested positive for the virus.
Royal Oak Health & Reabilitation issued the following statement:
We regret that our valued employees chose to take the actions they took today, particularly during a time when we are negotiating the next contract with our employees covered by the Service Employees International Union.
Today’s action by our employees is in violation of their union’s contract with us and is related to union members walking off the job earlier this month after being told that one of our patients tested positive for COVID 19 while in the hospital. We understand that some of our employees may choose to remove themselves from a workplace due to the possibility of contracting COVID-19. We have free COVID-19 testing to any employee showing symptoms of the coronavirus. These employees were offered an opportunity to continue employment with us and did not lose their job because of this action.
It is the policy of Royal Oak to provide its employees with a fair and reasonable means to take unpaid time off from work when necessary for emergency medical, health, maternity, family emergency and/or illness, involuntary leave, and personal emergency reasons, without jeopardizing their position with the company. Our employees may apply their accrued sick, personal holiday and vacation time to be paid out and used first as part of their leave. Upon return from a Leave of 60 days or less, Royal Oak will reinstate our employees to the last position he/she held or an equivalent position.
State health guidelines for all nursing homes require that any employee coming to work with any symptoms of flu be required to stay home to recover for at least three days or until the symptoms clear up. Our union contract, like that of most other nursing homes, does not cover sick pay for employees in this situation.
Royal Oak began providing hazard pay immediately upon learning of the first COVID-19 positive cases at our facility. Our hazard pay includes 1.5 times the regular hourly pay rate for union employees working in contact with COVID-19 positive residents and 2 times the regular hourly pay rate for those same employees working overtime. All union employees whose jobs do not put them in direct contact with COVID-19 positive residents are receiving a $2 per hour increase as hazard pay.
We have never been in short supply of personal protective equipment on site to protect the health and safety of our employees and residents.
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