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Employees of Lexington nursing home set to strike

Negotiations broke down Sunday between unionized employees of a Lexington nursing home and the New York-based health care group that owns it, which means that a planned Monday strike will go forward, a union spokesman said.

Employees of the facililty had raised concerns over diminished wages and reduced health insurance after Zenith Care Health Group took over the former Golden LivingCenter on May 1, renaming it the Lexington Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

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“In the face of the brutal cuts to wages and resident care implemented by Zenith and its owner Ari Schwartz, caregivers at Lexington are moving forward with their plans to strike at the nursing home Monday morning,” said Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers East.

The day Zenith took over, employees received a memo that announced wage cuts ranging from 40 to 60 percent, as well as with a reduction in the company’s share of employee medical insurance premiums.

Representatives of Zenith Care Health Group could not be reached for comment.

The 76 unionized employees voted unanimously on May 7 to authorize a strike, which is planned to last one day, according to Hall.

“The overnight pay cuts between 40 and 60 percent have left caregivers making impossible choices between groceries and making the rent, between paying bills and feeding their children,” Hall said in a telephone interview. “Nursing homes get bought and sold all the time, but Zenith’s handling of this transition was reckless at best with respect to the lives of patients and caregivers alike.”

The pay cuts, he added, had left some employees on the brink of homelessness.

“There are dietary workers feeding the seniors of this Lexington facility who are now going into debt to feed their own children after seeing their wages brutally slashed to the state minimum of $8 an hour,” Hall said.

Under the new policy, registered nurses would make $24 per hour, licensed practical nurses would make $20 per hour, and certified nursing assistants would make $11.50 per hour. Dietary and kitchen staff would see their wages reduced to $8 an hour.

The memo, provided to the Globe by employees in May, also states that Zenith will pay 50 percent of monthly premiums for medical and dental plans, down from 75 percent under the previous management.

Faiz Siddiqui can be reached at faiz.siddiqui@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @faizsays.
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