Tag Archives: Red Cross Care Partners

ONA Strike: Home Care critical to Ontario’s health care strategy – just tell that to the CCACs

Picture of OPSEU President Warren Smokey Thomas with striking ONA CCAC professionals in Kingston on Friday January 30.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas (far right) with striking ONA CCAC professionals in Kingston last Friday.

About 3,000 professional staff at nine of the 14 Ontario Community Care Access Centres started walking a picket line Friday.

Represented by the Ontario Nurses’ Association, it’s the latest labour disruption in a sector the government considers to be critical to its overall health strategy.

About 140 OPSEU home care workers at ParaMed Home Health Care in Renfrew withheld their services last September after their agency initially failed to negotiate a deal that would lift many of its workers out of poverty. In 2013 SEIU took 4,500 personal support workers at Red Cross Care Partners out on strike over similar conditions. Following that strike the government implemented a well-intentioned but poorly constructed initiative to stabilize the Personal Support Worker (PSW) workforce by increasing funding for their wages over three years. As the government passed on wage increases for these PSWs, some private for-profit home care agencies clawed back compensation for travel time and mileage. In Niagara and Norfolk Counties OPSEU’s nursing staff at CarePartners are likely to strike soon to gain a first contract.

Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has appointed former RNAO President Gail Donner to lead an expert review on the sector. Her recommendations are expected early this year. They can’t come soon enough.

The pressures during this latest strike will be tremendous given Ontario’s underfunded hospitals have little room to maneuver now that the ability to discharge home care patients to the CCAC has become much more limited.

The CCAC boards are looking particularly ridiculous. The Toronto Star reports that ONA was asking for a 1.4 per cent hike for its workers after emerging from a two-year wage freeze. To most people, that seems more than reasonable in the face of the lavish wage increases the CCAC boards have been bestowing on their CEOs.

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Matthews promises to improve PSW compensation — but it will take time

There may soon be good news for the province’s personal support workers.

“When PSWs tell me they can make more at Tim Horton’s, I sit up and take notice,” Health Minister Deb Matthews was reported to have said yesterday at the Empire Club of Canada.

According to the Toronto Star, Matthews promises to improve the wages of the province’s personal support workers but said it would take time to figure out the best way to do it.

Throughout December’s SEIU PSW strike at Red Cross Care Partners we pointed out that the minimum wage for PSWs has not been increased since 2006, frozen at $12.50 per hour. That’s below the poverty level for workers the province is counting on to make its health transformation work.

That minimum wage is far less than what former Health Minister Elinor Caplan had recommended in her 2005 review of competitive bidding in home care. Caplan recognized that there would be no continuity of care when PSWs were turning over due to poor wages and working conditions. The Star reports today that this turnover rate is 60 per cent annually – clearly the government should have listened. It’s not too late to listen now.

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PSW Strike: Funding restraint for wages a blunt instrument that is harming home care

Today striking Red Cross Care Partners personal support workers are at the door step of three government ministers – Deb Matthews (Health), Yasir Naqvi (Labour) and Charles Sousa (Finance).

In recent days Health Minister Deb Matthews has said she wants to let collective bargaining run its process.

It’s a little like the Tories saying they won’t get involved in the collective bargaining process but would be willing to legislate an additional two-year across-the-board wage freeze.

What is a wage freeze other than direct interference in the bargaining process?

In this case, recognizing the 2007 Supreme Court of Canada decision that struck down British Columbia’s attempt to restrict bargaining rights, the Wynne government has instead cleverly restricted funding for compensation increases to agencies such as Red Cross Care Partners. That is expected to continue until the government balances its budget – officially projected to be 2018 (but likely to happen much sooner).

But don’t say they are interfering in the bargaining process!

The problem with this approach has been evident from the start – an across the board freeze on funding for wage compensation doesn’t separate the highly compensated CEOs from those earning poverty-level wages. The ability to endure a period of freeze is much different between the two.

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35 VON PSWs get last minute deal, 4500 RCCP PSWs to strike

35 down, 4,500 to go. OPSEU’s 35 personal support workers reached a tentative agreement with VON Grey Bruce late this afternoon while 4,500 PSWs working for Red Cross/Care Partners will be on the picket line tomorrow. These workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The Ontario Health Coalition and SEIU will be holding local rallies across the province tomorrow to draw attention to the low-wage strategy the Ontario government is pursuing in the key home care sector.

“It is not usual for the Ontario Health Coalition to get involved in strikes,” OHC Director Natalie Mehra stated tonight, “but this is an exceptional situation and it warrants an exceptional response.”

Calling the working conditions “starkly exploitive,” Mehra says the strike could shine a light on the mess that is home care.

Like the VON PSWs, the Red Cross/Care Partners workers are among the lowest paid in the health system – most earning an annual income that hovers at about or slightly below the poverty line. Many have to work two or more jobs to support their families and maintain a vehicle to be able to shuttle between clients.

Without compensation for travel time, many of these workers get paid part-time wages for full-time hours.

The province’s pursuit of low-wage PSWs has created significant instability in the home care workforce as few stick around with such non-competitive wages. Only four of 35 OPSEU VON PSWs had reached the top of their wage grid prior to today’s tentative agreement.

Former Health Minister Elinor Caplan recognized the retention problem and its impact on continuity of care. In her 2005 review of the home care competitive bidding process, she 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. In 2006 the province instead established a disappointing minimum wage of $12.50 an hour for PSWs. It hasn’t been adjusted since.

The 35 OPSEU PSWs are asked to come to a ratification meeting at 7 pm, December 11 at the OPSEU Regional Office in Owen Sound.

Support PSWs Wednesday at 25 noon rallies across Ontario

If you would like to support the striking SEIU PSWs, especially as they approach the holiday season, the OHC has provided a list of locations where they will be rallying tomorrow (Wednesday, December 11). All rallies begin at noon.

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VON Grey Bruce — Nobody respects a cheapskate

Sometimes the government and its contract health providers just don’t know where to draw the line between fiscal responsibility and simply being cheap.

Nobody respects a cheapskate except for other cheapskates.

Already saving a bundle by whisking patients out of hospital as soon as possible, the province had to rush immediately to “cheap” when it came to paying the thousands of personal support workers (PSW) whose job it is to care for these patients.

When something is cheap, we usually don’t put a lot of value in it. Yet PSWs are incredibly valuable to the Ontario’s government’s overall health strategy. They are also critical to home care recipients and long-term care residents who rely upon them. So why is the government still treating PSWs as if they were of only minimal value when it comes to pay?

Recently Wal-Mart endured considerable wrath from the public when a store in Canton, Ohio actually asked for food donations to support their underpaid employees. Everybody was reminded of the Walton family’s $150 billion personal fortune made from the toil of these workers. And of course, if the donors bought that food from Wal-Mart…

Closer to home the VON pays so little to its part-time PSWs in Grey Bruce Counties that some have also become reliant on charities and food banks to make ends meet for their families.

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