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HALIFAX Home care workers who came together on the weekend to discuss common bargaining issues agreed that some of the things they have in common have to go: unsafe working conditions and the extremely low rates of pay.
The workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) came to Halifax from Sydney, Yarmouth and regions in between to talk about a provincial bargaining plan. CUPE is pressuring the government to eliminate the disparities in rates of pay and working conditions across the province. The union wants all CUPE home care workers to bargain under one provincial contract.
What we heard around the table on Saturday was a dozen different job descriptions and a number of very scary stories about situations home care workers are facing out in the communities, says CUPE national rep Kathy MacLeod. These workers are often walking into situations in peoples homes that are unsanitary or unsafe like dealing with lice or improper use of propane – and they have absolutely no protection except to refuse the work.
MacLeod says policies that guide what workers are allowed to do not only vary from agency to agency, there can be many different interpretations of a single policy. In addition, she adds, policies are rewritten constantly.
There is still a whole lot of confusion over how home care fits into the health care plan of this government, says MacLeod. Unfortunately, its the workers who are getting bounced back and forth by this.
She says the industry is also having trouble keeping workers because of the low pay.
We have people earning as little as $7.14 an hour, and they drive their own vehicles to earn this, she says. Compare this to employees doing similar work in nursing homes and hospitals who earn $12 or more per hour. Its just not fair.
CUPE is putting together a profile of home care in the province as a starting point for a long term strategy.
Were hoping the government will sit down with us and look at bringing some kind of standardization to the industry, says MacLeod. Home care is a rapidly growing facet of health care and its time the government looked at it seriously.
For more information please contact Kathy MacLeod at 902-578-4612 (cell) or 902-445-4116.