There used to be a time when St. Elizabeth Health Care boasted of making Canada’s Top 50 employer list. They used to talk about how their happy staff didn’t need a union.
How times change.
The last time St. Elizabeth made the Report on Business best employer list was 2007.
Now the St. Elizabeth-run Peel Crisis Services is in bargaining with OPSEU. Peel Crisis Services is among the numerous home health care services contracts the non-profit charity maintains across Ontario. The Peel Crisis Services offers free support to individuals needing help in a mental health crisis, to their families, friends and caregivers.
According to the comparison website payscale.com, St. Elizabeth pays workers about 8 per cent below market value, and within their own sector they are about a percentage point behind average.
As a health care organization, you’d think they’d have some understanding of how the system works, yet St. Elizabeth has drawn a line in the sand insisting that their workers give two weeks’ notice prior to any medical appointment unless it is an emergency.
That means workers experiencing long waits to see a specialist will be denied the opportunity to get in earlier in the event of a cancellation.
It hardly strikes us as a model employer when St. Elizabeth is offering close to the minimum under the Employment Standards Act for breaks, especially when it comes to a 12 hours shift with only one 15-minute paid break and 45 minutes of unpaid lunch/dinner breaks.
St. Elizabeth is offering these workers a half a percentage wage increase, which will likely place them even further behind their counterparts elsewhere. The average wage increase in Canada for 2012 (to October) was 1.6 per cent.
St. Elizabeth, while technically a charity, gets the lion’s share of its money from the provincial government — $157 million out of a budget of $169.9 million (2011). Despite this, there is no requirement for their executives to report on Ontario’s Sunshine list.
However, opencharity.ca reports that in 2011 St. Elizabeth had four staff members earning $250,000 a year and one member earning more than $350,000 per year – the top category on Open Charity. The site lists 10 positions earning more than $120,000 per year.
While CEO Shirlee Sharkey likes to talk about efficiency, Open Charity notes that 19.2 per cent of St. Elizabeth’s 2011 budget is taken up by management and administration. That’s about double the average Ontario hospital’s administrative costs.
While life at the top may be grand at St. Elizabeth, nearly three out of four workers on the front line in their organization are part-time, which makes us wonder why they insist on 10 years of full-time service before an increase in vacation time is granted. About two out of three Canadians have been in their present jobs for less than 10 years. That would make the prospect of an increase in vacation nearly unobtainable for most St. Elizabeth Health Care workers.
We’ve noticed that St. Elizabeth no longer boasts about being on the top employer list in its job postings. Nor can it claim to be a workplace where unions are not needed. Union or no union, they may start to have difficulties in retaining and recruiting employees if recent bargaining is any indication of where they want to drive employee terms and compensation.