Help line worker supporting a callerHome care workers in Kingston – many of whom received employer-written directives this week to stay mum during the Doug Ford government overhaul of the health system – can now call 613-542-9333, a new help line for assistance.

The support hotline is one facet of a unique community-based project by local minimum wage activists and CUPE earlier this year. The initiative also provides home care personal support workers (PSWs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) with job search resources, legal and employment rights advice, and health and safety supports.

“Fear of losing patient care hours and reprisals from employers is silencing a vulnerable – mostly female – home care workforce from speaking out about their working conditions and low wages, and the safety risks they face working alone in peoples’ homes, including violence,” said Sharon Richer, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, the hospital division of CUPE in Ontario.

In announcing the hotline and other resources, Richer noted that the “silencing of home care workers is so pervasive that we could not jeopardize the employment of those PSWs and RPNs, who were bravely going to speak openly to media today about their working conditions and the lack of adequate care hours for patients at home.”

“Home and community care services are expected to grow under the PC plan to restructure health care. This means supports and care for patients at home delivered by home care PSWs and RPNs who earn low wages, have unstable hours and face health and safety risks related to working alone, including violence, will regrettably also grow,” says Richer. “These precarious working conditions will intensify if this overhaul of health care happens the way it’s designed to, with the expansion of for-profit home care.”

The Kingston community home care worker project also includes a drop-in centre where PSWs, RPNs, and other home care staff can meet and access legal supports.

Tomorrow (Saturday, March 2) a day-long conference on violence is being held at Kingston City Hall in the Memorial Hall.