Employees protest benefit cuts at embattled Hillsborough retirement community

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Workers from the Nursing Center at University Village made a lot of noise walking a picket line, protesting salary caps and reductions in benefits. This labor unrest comes while the new owners of University Village, Westport Holdings of Tampa, struggle to stop the state from yanking their license and shutting them down.

Health care workers represented by the Service Employees International Union are protesting working without a contract since December. Westport Holdings claims through the years the University Village nursing center was overly generous to its employees, and it’s time to reel in costs.

Nursing Center at University Village protest

Nursing Center at University Village protest

Certified nursing assistant Karen Scott disagrees.

“What do they consider to be generous? I’ve been working with them for over 20 years and I haven’t seen $20 an hour yet,” Scott said.

Management wants to cap salaries and reduce health care benefits. It contends workers at University Village are paid more than employees at other local facilities.

“I think their comparison to different facilities that don’t have the union. We have a union, and a lot of our facilities don’t have caps,” licensed practical nurse Verna Pearson said.

University Village management agreed to meet with 8 On Your Side to discuss this and other issues on camera but changed its mind. Then security threw us off the property.

This labor issue comes in the midst of a struggle between Florida’s Department of Insurance Regulation and this community’s new owners. Regulators contend the owners did not receive necessary approval from the state to take over this continuing care retirement community.

Nursing Center at University Village protest Nursing Center at University Village protest

They owe $4 million in refunds to residents and their estates.

Previously, 8 On Your Side introduced you to Thomas Allensworth who was waiting for his $278,000 reimbursement.

The state also contends University Village owners filed false information with regulators.

Karen Scott wonders if the same thing isn’t going on with contract negotiations being stalled for several months.

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