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Commission Upholds Privatization At Veterans’ Home

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GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) - A state commission has rejected union appeals and upheld the privatization of about 150 nursing aide jobs at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans as part of a cost-cutting effort.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission heard two appeals from Michigan AFSCME Council 25 last month in Lansing. According to information released Monday, the commission upheld the decision to privatize the jobs.

The issue made it into the courts in 2011 as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder sought to privatize certain state services to save money.

Critics argued that the plan could harm residents. At the hearing, veterans and state workers testified that more than 600 veterans are endangered by low staffing levels and inadequate care. Contract workers are paid about $10 an hour, about half what the state workers were paid.

“It’s very unfortunate,” AFSCME attorney Richard Mack said. “If anybody is deserving of high-quality care, it’s people who have been injured on the battlefield fighting for our freedoms.”

Mack said he will consider an appeal to the Ingham County Circuit Court.

JoAnne Cripps, nursing director at the home run by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said the facility is going through a transition period but “we have basically the same level of care.”

The Civil Service Commission said it rules on privatization decisions based on whether a savings of at least 5 percent can be achieved. According to the case, state officials have shown savings will exceed 40 percent – or about $4 million a year – from privatizing the jobs.

The concerns raised by the union “may be entitled to review in … other forums,” the opinion said.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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