PSW minimum wage hike not the end of the story

Deb Matthews promised and delivered – sort of.

The Ontario Health Minister had committed earlier this year to revisit compensation for personal support workers. Minimum wage for PSWs had not changed since 2006.

This she has done – announcing yesterday that the minimum wage for PSWs would escalate in three steps to $16.50 per hour by April 1, 2016.

The first step is retroactive – PSWs earning the previous minimum wage of $12.50 per hour will see their pay rise to $14 an hour as of April 1 of this year. Next April 1st it will rise to $15.50 for 2014-15.

It’s a good start but not the end of the story.

Elinor Caplan, the former Federal and Provincial Health Minister recognized in her 2005 home care report, recruitment and retention was a major issue in the sector given compensation was considerably below PSWs employed in other settings, such as nursing homes and hospitals.

The Toronto Star reported last year that turnover of PSWs had reached 60 per cent – or more than the complete exit of the home care PSW workforce every two years.

Caplan had specifically recommended that the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres and the health care providers establish an “industry standard” that would include including dental, drug plans, pension and mileage.

That hasn’t happened. Nor has there been any industry standard around the recognition of paid travel time which remains a contentious issue.

These issues will likely play a significant role in determining whether PSWs stay on the job or depart for better compensation elsewhere.

The announcement also makes no reference to indexing the minimum wage for PSWs after 2016 — as the government has done with the general minimum wage.

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