Caretakers in Lake Worth Beach demand higher pay and better work conditions
Workers at a nursing home say the high turnover rate during the pandemic is still threatening the safety of their staff and patients. Last week, just outside of the facility, the workers demanded better working conditions.
Caretakers from Avante at Lake Worth are calling for an increase in wages, hazard pay, and stronger efforts to retain and recruit new nursing staff.
“We lost co-workers from that pandemic. They died from the COVID-19," said Nadia Bataille, who has spent several years working at the nursing home as a certified nursing assistant. "They can’t be replaced because the wage is so low."
You turn to WLRN for reporting you can trust and stories that move our South Florida community forward. Your support makes it possible. Please donate now. Thank you.
Bataille said she contracted COVID-19 on the job.
"We have to make things attractive so other people can come and we can reward the ones that are there,” she said.
Bataille makes $10.61 an hour. The average pay for certified nursing assistants in nursing homes at the state level is approximately $12 per hour.
Organizers say workers will continue protesting the facility until management addresses concerns from the workers.
According to WPTV, Avante at Lake Worth released a statement on the matter, which read:
"We have been in constant communication with the SEIU throughout the pandemic to ensure appropriate compensation and supplies for our staff while handling residents with COVID or COVID exposures."
Margarette Nerette is vice president of 1199SEIU — a union representing healthcare workers across the state.
Nerette, who stood alongside state Rep. Omari Hardy, called on elected officials to help nursing facilities improve working conditions.
“They call them essential workers. They call them heroes but they are not treating them as such,” said Nerette. “They [the staff] have had enough.”
Hardy, a former Lake Worth Beach commissioner and U.S. congressional candidate, said the organized labor is also an effort to prevent worker burnout, which could increase the quality of care for patients.
"I think it's important that we acknowledge the role that workers and union members play in our society. Not just on behalf of themselves but on behalf of all those who may have to send a family member or loved one into a facility such as this one day," Hardy said.