TORONTO — Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman has failed to address the main barrier to creating a stable community care system in the province — competitive bidding — while introducing changes that will bring minor relief to some personal support workers, says Brian O’Keefe, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer.
The minister boasts that he is implementing most of the recommendations made by Elinor Caplan, but her review was stacked from the outset,” O’Keefe said. “A review of competitive bidding, which is at the heart of the problems for workers and recipients of care in the community care sector, was not within her mandate. The tragedy for all Ontarians is that the minister is extending competitive bidding to all health care services through the local health integration networks.”
Competitive bidding has created deplorable working conditions in community care, creating a huge incentive for workers to flee the sector, said Kelly O’Sullivan, president of two CUPE locals representing personal support workers. Wages are bad, benefits are weak and pensions, where they exist, are worse. Smitherman’s announcement of an increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour will do little to solve the problem, especially considering that Caplan reported the current average wage in the sector to be $12.
“I know so many workers, women for the most part, who are working seven days a week with two or even three different employers just to make ends meet,” O’Sullivan said. “The only way to stop the drain of highly qualified staff from this sector is to give them wage parity with personal support workers in hospitals. That means $17 to $18 an hour.”
In the community care system, wages were artificially driven down by the competitive bidding system, O’Keefe said. The system is so bad that it has been suspended since Caplan began her review.
quot;Now the government is determined to restart this failed experiment under the guise of Caplan’s recommendations,” he said. “This is not good news for the people who provide care or for those who receive it.”
Brian O’Keefe, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario, 416-579-7414 (cell
Kelly O’Sullivan, President, CUPE 4308/3896, 416-529-9600 (cell)
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications, 416-299-9739 ext 264