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Senate Panel Approves Bill to Protect Workers During Mergers, Mitigate Effects of Health Sector Volatility

TRENTON – The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Richard Codey that would provide certain protections for employees regarding their wages, benefits and employment during a change in control of a health care entity.

The bill, S-315, would require any agreement for the change in control of a health care entity to provide that all non-managerial employees be offered employment during a six-month transitional period from the time of the change in control and that none of them be discharged for that period except in a reduction of the workforce. Further, the bill would prohibit the wages and benefits of non-managerial employees from being reduced or diminished during the period ending six months after the change in control.

“As the coronavirus pandemic has shown, our health care workers are among our most resilient and valued employees. During the spread of a highly contagious, deadly disease, they showed remarkable courage, stamina and commitment to their work. This bill will ensure those workers are treated fairly, and that their wages and benefits are protected, regardless of the volatility in and around the health care industry,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex).

The bill would apply to licensed health facilities, staffing registries and home care services agencies. No action taken pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement entered into by an exclusive representative of employees of a health care entity subject to a change of control would be a violation of the bill. Further, the bill would not limit, delay, or prevent, including during the transitional period, the recognition of an employee collective bargaining representative, or collective bargaining between the successor health care entity employer and the representative.

“Out front-line workers in the health care industry risked their lives to provide care to sick and in some cases dying patients during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Those same workers have a right to expect their wages and benefits are going to be protected, and be insulated from any structural change that might come from the consolidation of health care entities,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex).

The bill was passed out of committee by a vote of 5-3.