First of all I want to say what a pleasure it is to be here at this first meeting of Personal Support Workers in Toronto.
Secondly, I want to tell you how important it is that you are holding this meeting at this time. The work you will be doing around collective bargaining in workshops this morning and this afternoon is a critical step in the struggle to achieving dignity and respect for Personal Support Workers. Coordinating your collective bargaining approaches is the first step to improving wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions for all.
Thirdly, I want to tell you that you are not alone. Your Sisters and Brothers within CUPE locals across Canada are working hard to achieve these goals as well. And other organizations in the home care sector are beginning to see the importance of raising the profile of home care work as a valuable component of health care.
However, as usual it is not smooth sailing. There is some bad news and some good news.
B) Bad News, Good News
I’ll start with the bad news. Three essential types of services make up home care.
- Preventive and maintenance – enhancing people’s ability to live independently.
- Long term care substitution – for people who would otherwise be in long term care institutions.
- Acute care substitution – for those who would otherwise be in hospitals
While the Romanow Report, the First Ministers’ Accord and the Federal Budget all address home care issues, it is primarily from the acute care substitution perspective – the services needed when patients are released from hospitals “quicker and sicker.” The preventive and maintenance side of home care (the work of Personal Support Workers) is largely forgotten. This is hardly surprising as politicians are striving to make changes to the most visible elements of home care for very political reasons.
The good news is that there are now many organizations who are beginning to see the need to create a home care sector where the work is respected and valued, and where workers have better wages, benefits, pensions, and working conditions. The result would be a home care sector where workers wish to work and wish to remain working.
C) Canadian Home Care Human Resources Study
About two and a half years ago, CUPE and several other organizations began a process to conduct a study of the home care sector looking at all of those factors. The results are now just about to be released and what I am about to show you today are some data on the sector which will help you put your own deliberations in the workshops into perspective. It will also help to show that you are not alone in your struggles and that others feel the same way as you do.
Organizations participating in the study have looked at the data and recognize that significant changes need to be made if workers in the sector are to be able to provide the services that home care clients and their families need.
The central objective of the study was to look at all elements of human resources especially wages, benefits, pensions, working conditions, education and training.
The five organizations that serve as the Management Committee for the study are: CUPE, Victorian Order of Nurses, the Canadian Healthcare Association, the Canadian Association for Community Care, and the Canadian Home Care Association.
The following are some findings that you should find helpful as you examine your own collective agreements and discuss the major issues facing you as workers in your workshops.
There are approximately 40,000 – 50,000 home support workers across Canada.
Wages for Home Support Workers (Canada Averages)
|Public||Private NFP||Private FP||Overall|
As you can see it is always better to belong to a union than not and public employers such as provinces or municipalities pay more than private not-for-profit agencies and private for-profit companies. The overall average wage for home support workers across Canada is $12.71. Unionized wages average $13.49 per hour while non-union wages average just $11.95. The highest wage $14.65 is for unionized public sector workers.
I am sure that you will identify with the following information provided by home support workers from across the country:
Top 3 Concerns About Working Conditions - Home Support Workers
- Non-sanitary conditions in the household.
- Lack of cooperation from the client.
- Verbal abuse from the client or client’s family.
Top 3 Reasons For Leaving Employment - Home Support Workers
- Wages are too low.
- Poor job security.
- Insufficient benefits.
What Working Conditions Need To Be Improved for Home Support Workers?
- Compensation for travel time.
- Promote more respect of home care workers.
- More education/training.
- Better wages.
- Improved benefits.
D) Recommendations Of The Canadian Home Care Human Resources Study
In the end, the study made a number of recommendations – several of them are integrally related to the issues that you are addressing today. (These are highlighted in bold type below.)
- Define and promote the profile of the home care sector.
The study identifies that changes need to made in the very areas that you have identified as the focus of your workshops and ones which you are taking very practical steps to address – improving collective bargaining strategies, educating your members and educating the public.
- Ensure the appropriate supply, distribution and mix of adequately prepared formal caregivers, informal caregivers and volunteers to meet population health and social needs.
- Ensure appropriate compensation (wages and benefits, including pensions) for people providing home care.
- Improve working conditions for both formal and informal caregivers in the home care sector.
- Enhance management practices and supports.
- Develop strategies for educational preparation, formal continuing education and employer-provided training to ensure the availability of well qualified home care providers.
- Address the opportunities and challenges in using technologies to enhance the delivery and quality of home care services, including the impact on caregivers.
- Develop information systems to collect appropriate data, and conduct timely, policy-relevant research to support health human resources management and planning activities.
- Re-examine the organization and funding of the home care sector.
- Recognize the central and integral role of informal caregivers and volunteers and the benefits they provide to people’s lives and well-being.
I hope that you have a good day of planning and that your successes in coordinating today will translate into future successes in collective bargaining.
NFP is not-for-profit. FP is for-profit.
Source: Canadian Home Care Human Resources Study 2003.