By MIA NAKAJI MONNIER and NAO NAKANISHI
Rafu Staff Writers
Employees of Keiro have received notice that they will be terminated once escrow closes on the sale of Keiro’s facilities to Pacifica Companies. The original notice, dated Jan. 22 and given to staff on Jan. 28, said the following:
“The four facilities of Keiro Senior HeathCare (Keiro) have been purchased by affiliates of Pacifica Companies, LLC…
“Due to the sale of our existing facilities, your employment with Keiro will end on January 31, 2016. The new operators, Aspen Skilled Healthcare and Northstar Senior Living will offer you an opportunity to work with them.”
Escrow was scheduled to close on Feb. 5 but has since been delayed. Audrey Lee-Sung, Keiro’s director of development and communications, confirmed to The Rafu Shimpo on Tuesday that no new date has been finalized.
Employees who sign a severance and release agreement will be paid according to employment status. Full-time employees will receive $1,000, while part-time employees who have worked at least one shift in the 90 days prior to the layoff will receive $500. Accrued paid time off and dental reimbursement will also be paid at the same time.
Termination of employment is a planned part of the sale process, outlined in the sale report approved by the attorney general in September. Keiro is obligated to terminate all facilities staff (around 500 people total) before transferring ownership, with the idea that the new operators will re-hire when they take over. However, many employees are feeling upset and uncertain about the layoff.
“They (Keiro) must be trying to buy our silence,” said one full-time employee, who has worked for Keiro for ten years. “I’d better read that ‘agreement’ carefully and think thoroughly about taking it, because I’d hate to face disadvantage later with only $1,000… I’d decline this offer if it would be used against me later.”
Since news of the sale to Pacifica broke, Keiro has consistently assured that all facilities staff members will be able to keep their jobs once ownership changes. An article called “Myths and Facts Regarding the Sale of the Keiro Facilities,” which is featured on the homepage of Keiro’s website, states, “All current staff, including Japanese-speaking staff, will remain working with our residents.”
In a Sept. 23 interview with The Rafu Shimpo, Keiro CEO Shawn Miyake said, “You can imagine that there’s a lot of decisions that have to be made between now and then (close of escrow). But one of the ones I’m happiest with is the condition that the buyer and operators have to hire all facilities staff — everybody. That’s really important.”
He elaborated: “One of the things that residents told me before we started — I said, if there’s something that was very important to you, what is it? And they said the staff. We want to see the same people who speak Japanese. That’s important to us. And we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to put that in.’ Now it doesn’t mean that they (Pacifica) have to accept it, but we’re going to put it in (the contract). And they (Pacifica) said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do that.’”
The condition that the attorney general approved includes a stipulation that Keiro may make “reasonable personnel changes” up to the transfer date, but after that, all employees in good standing will receive “offers of employment” from Aspen and Northstar.
“The continuity of quality care is a critical part of this transaction,” Keiro Chair of the Board Gary Kawaguchi said to The Rafu Shimpo on Tuesday. “Aspen and Northstar are operating pursuant to the Attorney General’s strict conditions regarding the continued employment of all employees. In addition, all members of management are treated the same as any employee for the facilities and they would qualify for the same severance as any full-time employee.
The severance notice provided to staff does not give a timeline or specific details regarding re-hiring.
“I think it’s a nice gesture,” said a full-time employee who has been at Keiro for one year, “but I feel in a way that Keiro is trying to buy our trust, and I really don’t know what to make of it.”