CUPE welcomes the news of the $2,000 premium being offered to health care workers in Nova Scotia, but is, however, extremely disappointed that the facilities funded by the Department of Community Services (DCS) are excluded from the premium. The offer leaves out essential front-line staff who work at residential facilities.

Kim Cail, provincial coordinator for CUPE at DCS-funded worksites, says, “While we applaud the government for acknowledging health care workers, the premium does not extend to community services workers who are providing direct support to persons with disabilities and who are required to follow the same directives set out by the Department of Health for essential workers during COVID-19,” says Cail.

Cail says it’s short-sighted that classifications such as Residential Care Workers, for example, who provide 24-hour care for their clients, are not eligible for the premium.

“All community service workers are essential workers. Why should they be treated differently than their counterparts in the Department of Health and Wellness-funded facilities?

Cail is worried that the premium being offered in other sectors will bleed staff from DCS, a sector that is already dealing with staff shortages. “If this isn’t straightened out, we could see a mass exodus of workers from community services into long-term care or home support.”

Louise Riley, chair of CUPE’s Long-Term Care Committee adds that premiums alone will not resolve recruitment and retention issues in all three sectors. “A permanent raise would help alleviate chronic shortages and mandated overtime,” says Riley. “A living wage would make care-giver careers more attractive, and it would alleviate the need for many people to work two jobs to make ends meet.”

CUPE represents close to 2,000 community services employees at group and small options homes, adult residential centres, residential care facilities, and developmental residences across Nova Scotia.