Published October 02, 2012
Arbitrator awards nearly 5 percent pay raises across 2 years to home-care workersBRAD SHANNON
An independent arbitrator has awarded pay raises of nearly 5 percent in each of the next two years to Washington’s roughly 45,000 home-care workers who now earn as little as $10.03 an hour. Under the settlement finalized late last week, workers who bathe, clothe, dress, and cook and clean for elderly adults and the disabled could see their pay reach $11.03 per hour in July 2014. The full agreement could cost taxpayers $134 million, according to an estimate for Service Employees International Union 775 Northwest. The governor and Legislature still need to approve the deal. Arbitrator Sylvia Skratek was given the case after talks broke down between SEIU and Gov. Chris Gregoire’s negotiators. Skratek’s order also would preserve health care benefits for individual workers and reimburse them for travel costs for up to 100 miles a month. SEIU had sought a starting wage of $12.25 and other improvements in compensation. The governor’s Office of Financial Management declined to comment on the order, but SEIU held a news conference Tuesday in Olympia to outline the deal. The proposal would raise home-care workers’ starting pay to $10.53 in July 2014 and $11.03 in July 2015, and create a new “experienced worker” wage – $13.84 an hour in 2013 and $14.53 in 2014 – for those who have logged at least 14,000 hours of work since 2005. Home-care worker Darryl Johnson said that moves the workers a little closer to a living wage. SEIU outlined other elements of the agreement: a 25-cents-an-hour pay raise for home-care aides who earn certification from the Department of Health; an increase in the state’s health care contribution by 9 percent to cover medical inflation costs for health insurance; and a single paid holiday July 4. It does not include retirement benefits, which the union asked for.