Friday, December 1, 2023

County Announces Crest Haven Layoffs, Union Talks Continue

Christopher South
Steve Tully, left, a union leader representing Crest Haven employees, speaks to County Commissioner Will Morey, Sept. 12, about holding a meeting to discuss alternatives to privatizing the Crest Haven nursing home. The county and the union met on Sept. 15, and Tully said he was hopeful the county will consider some of the options the union suggested.

By Christopher South

CREST HAVEN – Cape May County Counsel Jeff Lindsay sent a letter, dated Sept. 6, to towns asking them if they would hire any of the employees the county intends to lay off from the Crest Haven Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

Lindsay provided towns with a list of a dozen Civil Service Commission job titles that “the county will be laying off” in anticipation of awarding a contract to a private vendor to run the nursing home. The county has put out a request for proposals from private vendors to take over the operation of Crest Haven effective Jan. 1, 2024. The job titles subject to layoff include head nurse (RN), senior practical nurse (LPN), practical nurse (LPN), institutional attendant (CNA), social worker (nursing home), recreation leader, recreation aide, cook, assistant cook, food service worker, stock handler, and laundry worker.

The expectation is that 32 of the 126 employees, mainly in clerical, maintenance, and housekeeping positions at Crest Haven, will move to other county departments based on their seniority.

“In an effort to ease the impact of these layoffs and assist our affected employees in finding replacement employment, I am writing you to determine if you have a need for employees holding any of the above titles,” Lindsay wrote.

Towns that are interested in hiring any workers being laid off are urged to contact Cape May County Director of Human Resources Sara Maloney.

On the same date as the letter to the towns, Maloney was sending out a notice of a disciplinary meeting to 28 employees who posed for a photograph that was going to be used by their union. The photo was referred to and displayed at the Sept. 12 County Commissioners meeting where, for the second time, members of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) appealed to the commissioners to find alternatives to privatizing the nursing home. County employees showed up in force Aug. 22 and Sept. 12 to make the case for not privatizing and saving their jobs.

The county has said it would attempt to solicit proposals from vendors that would absorb the employees not retained by the county and offer them healthcare and retirement plans. Two weeks later the county identified the 28 employees and sent them a “Notice of Fact Finding” for “Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Employee” for posing in a photograph for their union. The photograph depicts the employees standing in front of the nursing home, smiling.

On Sept. 21, AFSCME New Jersey Executive Director Steve Tully said AFSCME had a meeting with the county on Sept. 15, and one of the things they addressed was the Notice of Fact-Finding sent to the 28 employees.

“The county agreed to withdraw the fact-finding notices and they did,” Tully said.

Lindsay told the Herald via email that the purpose of the fact-finding letter was not to discipline employees but to make them aware that they should not have been taking a picture during working hours.

“It was explained to them that the county never intended to discipline the employees; however, the fact-finding was the appropriate, contractual mechanism to sit down with them and explain that it is not appropriate for them to be engaging in union business during work hours,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay said he told Tully he would “let him know” about withdrawing the fact-finding letter, and once employees were advised of the nature of the county’s position it rescinded the letter.

“We communicated this message via a memorandum and canceled the fact-finding meetings,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay said he, Commissioner Director Leonard Desiderio, and Assistant Administrator Ron Simone met with AFSCME representatives Steve Tully, Yolanda Lawson, Mike Stover, and Amie Fairman last week to discuss Crest Haven.

Regarding the letter that went out to the municipalities regarding hiring laid-off Crest Haven employees, Tully said that was the county moving forward as if privatization was a done deal. He thinks the county is more receptive to considering other options since the last county commissioners meeting.

“With meetings we’ve had and raising awareness I think it is a little premature to say this is a done deal,” Tully said. “We have certainly gotten the commissioners’ attention and we are giving them ideas they might not have considered or have shown them the viability of doing certain things to allow Crest Haven to continue as viable county entity.”

AFSCME shared ideas with the commissioners including:

  • expanding services to admit veterans, which they said would fill beds and generate revenue
  • having a dialysis unit in-house at Crest Haven, which they said would save the county money and potentially generate new revenue
  • increasing the private pay rate since the current rate is far too low in comparison with other nursing homes
  • accepting more types of insurance, which will increase the pool of potential residents and help fill vacant beds
  • developing a joint plan with the union to increase the long-term occupancy rate to a minimum of 66% and the rehab occupancy rate to more than 80% over the next year thereby generating millions more in revenues
  • implementing more efficient revenue collection measures to ensure the county is receiving the monies it is owed in a timely manner.

Lindsay said that since the onset of informing the union of the board’s decision to issue the RFP for a private operator for Crest Haven, the county has communicated to the union and its members that the county wants to work with them to address employee impacts at Crest Haven.

“This is an example of our willingness to address issues facing Crest Haven employees,” Lindsay said.

Tully said the county did not anticipate the amount of pushback the decision would generate.

Thoughts? Questions? Call Christopher South at 609-886-8600 x-128 or email

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