The construction of a new a new long-term care home, Glen Hill Terrace by Durham Christian Homes was initially welcomed by the front-line care staff as a good news story for the community and the residents and their families. But the excitement of the new build on Glen Hill Drive in Whitby has, over months of negotiations with their employer turned to frustration for the front-line staff, who are being offered inferior working conditions and wages to continue to work at the home.

At a media conference today Lisa Barkwell, President of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 5110, said front-line staff want to continue to provide care for Glen Hill residents and families as Durham Christian Homes rebuilds. Unfortunately, the employer has other ideas.

These ideas include “making the jobs less stable and more underpaid. This is the exact opposite approach that we should be taking to make care better. It is not just about the bricks and mortar. It’s about the care. We are urging that both the physical building and the care, be built right from the start at the new home,” said Barkwell a long-time personal support worker (PSW) who now works as an activationist. She outlined the ways Durham Christian Homes proposes making the work less stable and lower paid. These include:

  • Not honouring the current collective agreement should a worker transfer to the new home;
  • Contracting out maintenance, dietary, housekeeping and laundry;
  • Introducing wage freezes;
  • Imposing claw backs on benefits and shift premiums;
  • Bringing in sub-standard sick leave while a potential second wave of COVID may soon come.

Donna Metcalf-Woo, who lives and works in Durham and who until COVID-19 hit visited her father, a resident of one of the Glen Hill homes (Strathaven) for the past 5 and half years, daily was at the media conference to support the front-line staff.

“As a family member, I witness first-hand the difficulties and struggles that the staff are faced with daily. I was shocked and annoyed that after what we’ve witnessed and learned during this pandemic, that a long-term care employer would even think about trying to lower wages and working conditions for dedicated staff. We need care staff to be paid well and given full-time work to ensure they stay in long-term care, which is seeing a shortage of workers, particularly PSWs,” said Metcalf-Woo.

Oshawa MPP Jennifer French who joined the media conference remotely, spoke of the need for continuity of resident care and the importance of a stable workforce.

“I’ve appreciated hearing from the caring workers who are concerned about the quality of care and staff support that their long-time residents deserve,” said French. “I am hopeful that all parties involved will be able to ensure seniors and residents needing long-term care are the top priority.  As our communities and province have seen during this pandemic, continuity of care and support are needed to keep everyone well.”

The members of CUPE 5110 and 2225-06/12 believe the community will be in their corner as they strive to maintain existing wages, working conditions, oppose contracting out and advocate to make resident care and working conditions better, Barkwell stressed. She is optimistic that on reflection Durham Christian Homes will see the merits of maintaining the current skilled care workers at Glen Hill Terrace.