The Ontario government’s temporary wage increase for personal support workers is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

Personal support workers (PSW) in the home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services sectors will receive wage increases of two and three dollars an hour until March 31st of 2021.

“This announcement reflects the growing recognition of the value that personal support workers bring to our communities,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “These workers have long been underpaid and undervalued, so this is certainly a welcomed development. But wages were always only one part of the problem. What about confronting the disgraceful reality of part-time work, lack of benefits and access to paid sick days, and adequate hours of care to ensure and enhance quality of life?”

CUPE Ontario and OCHU are also highlighting concerns about the co-workers of PSWs who will not be seeing a wage bump.

“There are many other staff working in long-term care, hospitals, and social services whose work is also undervalued, who also make a very valuable contribution, and who should also be recognized with a wage increase,” said Michael Hurley, president of OCHU. “In many facilities, the result of this increase will be to all but erase any wage differential between PSWs and registered practical nurses. We can predict that registered practical nurses will be demoralized by this. The government needs to respect everyone’s contribution by expanding who is covered by this wage enhancement.”

With CUPE Ontario representing 280,000 public sector workers, including outside of health care, the union is also raising concerns about the range of front-line workers experiencing challenges similar to that of PSWs.

“Workers in developmental services, shelter workers, and other folks in community agencies are also underpaid and dealing with precarious shifts. They deserve to have it confirmed that they’re getting this wage bump. All workers deserve a permanent increase, full-time jobs with benefits, and sick time,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “So, this is definitely a good first step – but it better not be the last step.”