Tag Archives: VON Grey Bruce

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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Something is off this December — we’re ditching the parties for placards

Something is definitely off this holiday season. Instead of being invited to the usual round of parties, we’re getting invitations to demonstrations and press conferences. Instead of decking the halls we’re decorating placards.

How oblivious Health Minister Deb Matthews is to this growing unrest is hard to tell, although the recent revelation that she never read the ORNGE audit suggests a shocking disengagement that likely extends well beyond that scandal.

Today in Arnprior staff at the local hospital will be marching to protest ongoing shrinking services. A few more physiotherapy hours to be lost in January, some x-ray… this is the hospital that decided to totally do away with personal care workers (PSWs) as it sheds staff to balance its frozen budget. This slow striptease of staff has a way to go if the government thinks it can continue on this road to at least 2018.

Today is also the day that VON PSWs in Grey-Bruce Counties go back to the bargaining table in a last attempt to avoid job action. One of the workers pointed out that a staffing agency is advertising on Kijiji for temporary PSWs. Is the VON or Red Cross Care Partners – also in a strike countdown – contemplating hiring strike breakers, or are the more affluent residents of this community seeking some interim help should all hell break loose? The classified ad says the employment agency is willing to negotiate wages, something that so far their real employers don’t seem willing to do.

We went through a similar countdown last week with Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addictions Services in Kingston. They are supposed to represent this brave new world of improved community-based services that Matthews has been selling, but their agency’s base budget has been cut. In the end the workers got enough for their bargaining team to recommend a deal – it has yet to be ratified. This is one of the agencies that’s supposed to pick up the slack from 60 full-time equivalent jobs departing the local psychiatric hospital. That’s clearly not happening.

Next week we are travelling to London not for eggnog, but to talk to more mental health workers who have seen their clients similarly betrayed by this phoney health transformation.

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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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Today’s austerity will be tomorrow’s professional shortage

During the November meeting of the Canadian Health Professional Secretariat, our colleagues in British Columbia let us know that they are seeing increasing numbers of health professionals migrate there from Ontario.

It’s not surprising given austerity appears to be biting very hard here – and its not just in the hospital sector.

We’ve noticed that despite incredible organizing success, our overall health care membership has not grown within the last six months. This confirms the view from BC that our health care professionals and skilled support are departing to where the jobs are.

There have been numerous high profile cases where hospitals have unloaded significant numbers of staff – we reported earlier this year that about 290 full-time equivalent jobs were leaving The Ottawa Hospital. Similarly, The Scarborough Hospital has been in the spotlight for shedding jobs and services. Even smaller centers, such as the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital has lost significant employment for health professionals and support staff.

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Frontenanc Community Mental Health a case study in empty promises

You would think these would be the best of times for community health care providers.

The Wynne government is freezing base hospital funding and telling Ontarians that they can instead have it all closer to home.  The policy is one of a burning platform in which hospitals are fiscally forced to divest services to community agencies or run up considerable debt.

On the surface it appears popular in theory. Patients see it as an opportunity to access care without paying those costly hospital parking fees or risking a super bug because of the hospital cleaners that got laid off.

It remains largely a theory because the money the government is saving on hospitals is not necessarily flowing to community agencies.

If you look at reallocation of health spending over the last three decades, hospitals in Canada have shrunk from 41.8 per cent of the health care pie in 1984 to 29.1 per cent in 2011. Where did the money go? Much of it went to rapidly rising pharmaceutical costs — not to home and community care. In 1984 drugs took up 6.1 per cent of health spending. By 2011 it was 13.6 per cent. Through much of the mid-decade spending on home and community care actually went down in Ontario relative to other health sectors. The McGuinty government never walked the talk.

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