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CUPE Local 3896 members arent willing to take it any more. Fed up with low wages and minimal benefits, the workers at Senior Peoples Resources in North Toronto (SPRINT), a Toronto community-based home care agency, walked off the job September 7.

The 200 CUPE members, most of them women, are demanding modest two per cent wage increases in 2000 and 2001, better sick leave for hourly-paid employees and an employer-paid benefit plan for all employees who work at least 20 hours a week.

SPRINT workers, many with college diplomas in personal support work, visit seniors in their homes by public transit, prepare meals, change dressings, and dress and bath their clients. The maximum wage is less than $12 an hour.

The Ontario home care sector has mushroomed since the Harris government restructured the provinces health care system. But the sector suffers from high staff turnovers, low wages and poor working conditions.

After closing and merging dozens of hospitals and cutting budgets, the government opened Community Care Access Centres. It then engineered stiff competition between public and private agencies for contracts to care for patients at home.

“The government announcement of $92.5 million in new funding to community care agencies has come too late,” says CUPE representative Joanne Martin.

“If the government is really com-mitted to strengthening the delivery of community care services like home care, it should be concerned about the abysmal wages and working conditions faced by women and men whose work currently subsidizes the sector.

“Expansion of home care with-out improving wages and working conditions will not improve the quality of care seniors receive.”