A provincial wage enhancement for personal support workers (PSWs), that was supposed to have been made permanent, disappeared from paycheques without warning to workers at Regency Park Nursing Home, a private, for-profit long-term care facility in Windsor, Ontario.

“We were shocked, to say the least. We thought it must have been an error, so we raised it with management, who just told us it wasn’t being included anymore but offered no explanation,” said Donna Debro, President of CUPE 3593, which represents workers at the home. “PSWs are the lowest-paid care staff in all of healthcare, so that’s a big financial blow for them at a time when the cost of living is skyrocketing.”

CUPE, which represents workers at Regency Park, has filed grievances, but management has denied that it has done anything wrong. There has also been no information forthcoming from the head office of Universal Care, which is responsible for managing the facility.

“To do this in the middle of a province-wide staffing crisis is inexcusable. These people have worked hard throughout the pandemic and are facing high levels of burnout. They’re already working short staffed on a regular basis. To do this at all is going to make matters much worse. To do it with such callous disregard is just going to drive PSWs away at a time when every long-term care home in the province is struggling to attract qualified staff,” said Debra Maxfield, chair of CUPE’s Health Care Workers’ Coordinating Committee.

The wage enhancement for PSWs began during the pandemic and was subsequently made permanent by the provincial government.

Personal support workers have been scrambling to cancel vacations, change wedding plans and make cuts to grocery bills for their families as a result of this large and unexpected cut to their paycheques.

“As far as we are aware, no other long-term care facility in Ontario has stopped paying the wage enhancement. To the best of our knowledge, this situation with Universal Health is unique in long-term care,” said Maxfield. “Universal Health has to fix this right away. If they don’t, the province needs to step in and make sure the money is going to the workers who earned it.”