The Ontario government has once again handed private companies a bonanza to reap profits in the delivery of home care services at the expense of workers, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. It has done so by lifting a three-year moratorium on competitive bidding for the provision of home care services, a move that CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan says has already had a disastrous effect on Hamilton workers, some of whom will lose their jobs while others will toil at unacceptably low wages.
“Something is very wrong when long-time, community non-profit providers such as St. Joseph’s Health Care Centre and the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) are disqualified by the regional Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) after years of dedicated service,” says Ryan. “Typically, for-profit providers are able to bid lower because they pay poor wages, do not reimburse their workers for work expenses, and provide no benefits or pensions to these front line staff.”
Twenty-seven CUPE members at St. Joseph’s Health Care Centre, as well another hundred workers who provide in-home nursing care in Hamilton, will lose their jobs next April when their CCAC contracts run out.
Ryan says that the introduction of competitive bidding in the home care sector created a low-paying ghetto for workers, many of whom are women from racialized communities. When a number of community non-profit agencies lost contracts, some home care workers with these agencies had no choice but to take jobs at much lower wages with the for-profit companies that won the contracts.
“Why would the Minister of Health lift the moratorium on competitive bidding just as the Ontario government is embarking on a poverty reduction strategy?” adds Ryan. “It’s like we are going back to square one. From the new Brampton hospital to municipal public-private projects to competitive bidding in home care, this government is charging ahead on privatizing many services that can be delivered more efficiently and effectively by the public and non-profit community sectors.”
Ryan has vowed to hold the McGuinty government to account for the creeping privatization of services in the province. “It just does not make sense to send taxpayers’ dollars to Bay Street profiteers when those profits could instead be used in the front line care of clients who need home care or health care services,” he says.