Direct care staff with no pension and low wages employed at Amica Dundas, a Hamilton-area care home owned by the powerful Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) have taken the unprecedented step of appealing to the teachers’ fund board to help them achieve better working conditions.

Responsible investing principles, such as social and governance issues, which include labour rights and health and safety, are among the factors that guide and influence asset acquisition strategy at the OTPP.

Dealing with significant workplace challenges at Amica Dundas, in March 2018, the more than 100 staff – among them Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs), personal support workers (PSWs) and dietary and custodial staff joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). In Ontario, CUPE represents about 30,000 long-term care sector staff.

PSWs at Amica earn between $14-$18 hourly, below the wage pattern in the sector. Equally troubling, PSWs, performing the same duties, are paid at different rates. RPN wages are low. Other staff wages trail behind the sector.

“It was imperative that the Teachers’ fund with its global reputation knows about the labour relations practices at a company they own. How is it that the staff at Amica Dundas have no pension plan themselves and their employer is stalling negotiating a first contract?” Asks Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

There is support for CUPE 1404 staff at Amica Dundas from local and provincial teachers’ unions. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation has already agreed to act immediately and ask the OTPP board to find a constructive resolve to ensuring Amica staff are treated with respect in the workplace and bargaining going forward.

Our members at Amica Dundas, “deserve nothing less,” says Heather Neiser, president of CUPE 1404, which also represents more than 800 long-term care staff at other Hamilton area homes. “They are caring, diligent and work very hard to give the best care possible to residents despite chronic understaffing and crushing workloads. Morale is very low among direct care staff, because they know residents’ care needs are unmet.”

A community rally to support the workers’ push to get a first contract is planned for February 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., outside Amica Dundas, 50 Hatt Street, Dundas.