Home and residential care giant Revera say they are proud to support Ontario’s wage stabilization initiative for personal support workers (PSWs). Now that their home care workers have received the $1.50/hr wage increase, the corporation is telling the non-union portion of their workforce they are clawing back 8 cents per kilometre in compensation for travel between clients. In other words, they wanted government to pick up the bill for improved wage compensation so they could trash travel compensation for the same employees. That may not be what Health Minister Eric Hoskins had in mind with the Ministry’s workforce stabilization plan.
For some workers, the Revera claw back on mileage could eclipse the wage increase, leaving the government no further ahead in improving compensation to stem the tide of PSW departures. The turnover rate for PSWs in Ontario’s home care sector is 60 per cent – or the entire workforce in less than two years. That, by any standards, does not represent good continuity of care. Given Revera professes their number one goal is to help their clients, this gives every appearance they are more concerned about helping their profits.
A $1.50 per hour increase would total $52.50 before deductions on a 35 hour week – that’s slightly more than most PSWs would receive in paid hours. The loss of 8 cents per kilometre means that the wage increase would be wiped out if the worker drives more than 656 kilometer in a week – a cumulative distance not that uncommon particularly in more rural settings. Further, the company is not reimbursing on actual kilometres travelled, but based on the “optimal” route using Google Maps. Better not divert for gas, a Tim’s coffee or to avoid traffic and construction through an alternate route.
Unlike some home care companies, Revera does compensate for travel time, albeit much less than the actual time involved. The company outlines in their staff memo that the reimbursement rate for travel time will be calculated on the basis of one minute for every two kilometres travelled – which means a worker would have to travel an average of 120 kilometres per hour between appointments to make their normal hourly wage. Given traffic lights, stop signs, and the time to park the car, this could be more than a little daunting. Likely more than half to two-thirds of the real travel time is without compensation.
The company says they are doing this to “meet our financial obligations and remain competitive,” however, they are not about to open their books to scrutiny.
They don’t have to. Revera is not publicly traded. A for-profit company wholly owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (that’s the pension fund for federal public service workers, the RCMP and the military), they are not required to post executive salaries on the sunshine list. We don’t know how much profit they made last year, however, the Pension Trust is boasting their portfolio return is expected to be a whopping 16.3 per cent in 2014. Revera is among their top 10 private sector investments.
Revera may not be entirely cash poor either. In 2013 they sold 75 per cent share in 47 Canadian retirement residences for a little more than $1 billion — $697 million of that coming in cash, the rest applied to mortgage debt. Revera continues to operate these homes despite controlling interest having been transferred to a U.S. based real estate investment trust that is in turn owned by a myriad of private investment companies.
Ultimately, it’s a game of billions as investors go mining for gold in the care required for an aging and increasingly frail population. For the workers who do the real work, the gulf between the dollars changing hands between investors and the ability of these workers to support their families is growing.
Revera is the second biggest residential care company for seniors in Canada. Headquartered in Mississauga, they have more than 220 sites in the U.S. and Canada and employ 30,000 workers.
Revera needs to do more than say they are proud to support the PSWs. They need to show it by doing their fair share to shore up compensation. That begins by cancelling this terrible takeaway to their non-union workers.