Labour group calls for premium wage increase for personal support workers

A labour group that represents 5,000 personal support workers in the province is asking the Ontario government to implement a $2 hourly wage premium in the sector for those facing a cut in work hours.

This week the latest emergency orders by the Ontario government called for health-care workers to choose only one place of employment. 

Michael Reid, the Ontario health care coordinator for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) says many PSWs the association represents, work part-time and need jobs at more than one location to survive financially.

 “Choosing only one place of employment limits the availability of staff [and] takes some staff out. They may choose a place of employment that isn’t a long-term care home and we’re left with even shorter staffing,” said Reid.

“We need something to help increase care hours on the floor. Hands on caring needs to go up and that could be immediately used to provide more hours for these part time employees.”

CLAC says some long-term care employers in Ontario did offer wage increases to retain workers. Other provinces, including Quebec and British Columbia, have also increased wages. Personal support workers in Ontario are paid between $17 and $18 as a starting wage to around $21.

Reid says low wages and working conditions has led to a shortage of PSWs in Ontario in the last 10 years.

He believes many who left the profession would come back “if they knew there would be more staff on the floor to work with something manageable.”

“You have lots of long-term care homes where it is not uncommon where the schedule is calling for four PSWs [and] only three show up on the average day in say that particular home area. And that’s happening in the majority of their home areas,” said Reid.

“And all of that is in the context of repeated commissions and inquiries and statements by professionals who look at this industry saying those staffing levels are already too low, those staffing levels are already so low that we have increased violence. We have higher levels of depression and bedsores and ultimately death.”

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