Communities across Ontario are, today, celebrating the important work Personal Support Workers (PSWs) do in our health care system and in a multitude of community settings providing vital assistance to seniors, people with disabilities, those with chronic health conditions and, in some cases, children, province-wide.
At nearly 100,000 in number, PSWs make up a substantial portion of Ontario’s health and community care workforce. They provide many Ontarians with much needed medical support and assistance with daily activities in hospitals, long-term care homes, educational facilities, and in people’s own homes in our communities.
“It is very fitting that, today, we are recognizing the evolving and expanding role of PSWs in our health care system and their contribution as a vital part of the continuum of health care providers who people rely on,” said Fred Hahn, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). CUPE represents tens of thousands of PSWs in Ontario working in health care and in community and home settings.
Despite their growing and expanding role, PSWs, in the community and home care systems, are among the lowest paid of health support workers in Ontario. Overwhelmingly, the majority of PSWs working in home care are female. A high proportion of them are new immigrants and women of colour. In the community sector, most home care workers make $12.50 an hour, with no guaranteed hours of work, pensions, or benefits.Many have multiple jobs and often work in more than one setting or facility.All the non-union community employees have a two-year wage freeze.
“As we recognize the skill, love, and compassion that personal support workers and health care aides bring to the people they care for, we should also dignify them with the economic justice they deserve,” said Hahn. “This means moving to the wage parity that exists in provinces, like British Columbia and Quebec, between the community and the institutional health sectors.”
Due to low pay and unstable working conditions, the average turnover rate for home care workers is much higher than for other care workers. The home care contract bidding system used by the provincial government creates even greater turnover. The awarding of contracts to new providers interrupts the continuity of care people receive in their own homes and throws the care providers out of work.
“The home care competitive bidding model condemns these workers to conditions so exploitative that 57 per cent of them leave their agencies every year to work in long-term care homes or hospitals. This has to change,” says Hahn. “The work home care PSWs do is extremely valuable. They help maintain clients’ well-being and independence in their own home, and PSWs deserve stable working conditions, including better rates of pay.”
For more information, please contact:
President, CUPE Ontario