Home care personal support workers rallied today in a bid to finally obtain money pledged last year to increase their wages.
The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), gathered outside Health Minister George Smitherman’s office to encourage him to get home care contractors to pay up.
“George Smitherman made a big announcement last year, pledging more money for personal support workers for the tough and underpaid job they do,” said Kelly O’Sullivan, President of CUPE 4308. “But that money is being kept by some employers instead of being passed on to the workers who provide home care, a vital part of our health care system.”
“The withheld money amounts to $1.49 more per hour. Only Minister Smitherman can make sure it flows,” Sullivan said.
The Mike Harris government introduced compulsory contracting out and competitive bidding of home care services in the 1990s. The result was little continuity of care, poor working conditions, high staff turnover, and privatization of service delivery.
Instead of scrapping this system, the Liberal government proposed some modest changes in the spring of 2006. But a year later, personal support workers are reporting that some employers are keeping the modest funding increases that were intended for them.
“The Liberal government must require home care contractors to reach binding agreements with their unions to make the money flow,” said Fred Hahn, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario. “Contractors must be instructed that they cannot use the money for other purposes – it must immediately go to improve PSWs’ wages and working conditions.”
“If contractors fail to deliver, they should be considered in breech of the terms on which these funds were provided,” Hahn said. “Problems like this underscore the structural flaws of the contracting system. Competitive bidding is entrenching a sector that is fragmented and fraught with poor working conditions, to no one’s benefit but some employers.”
For more information, please contact:
Kelly O’Sullivan President, CUPE 4308 416-529-9600 (C)
Fred Hahn Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario 416-540-3979 (C)
David Robbins CUPE Communications 613-878-1431 (C)