The second recommendation of SEIU Healthcare’s Sweet$16 campaign is for the Ontario government to offer retirement security to the lowest earning members of our healthcare system- homecare Personal Support Workers. But actually, this is an issue that affects all Ontarians.
Over the past three decades, the number of companies who provide pension plans to their employees has dropped by a substantial rate. Employers are not only eliminating defined benefit plans, but also defined RRSP contribution plans as well.
That means a larger number of homecare workers and Ontarians are being forced to rely entirely on their savings and their Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). Unfortunately, many don’t have enough money saved up for their retirement. Many will be forced to work until they are 70-75 years of age before they can retire.
Many financial experts believe people cannot simply retire on their CPP alone. The CPP pays a measly $600 a month. For some people, that isn’t enough to cover the rent. The vast majority of non-unionized PSWs in the homecare sector don’t make enough money to save for their retirement. And most PSWs don’t even work full-time hours. They usually work part-time, irregular hours that change every week. Imagine driving from one location to the next, without adequate compensation for gas & mileage, paying the bills and taking care of your own family, all on the above salary. That’s barely enough to live off of, let alone try and save. A defined benefit pension plan will bring some more stability and peace-of-mind in an erratic industry.
“As a single parent, if I don’t have a pension, who is going to look after me?” asked Elena Saballero, a homecare worker and SEIU Healthcare member who lives in Toronto. “I only have one child and I can’t expect him to take care of me. If I have a pension, I can look after myself.”
A pension plan will help also help reduce employee turnover. Many PSWs suffer from low wages and irregular work hours. Many also don’t receive any kind of compensation for the time they drive in-between clients. They are leaving homecare and moving into sectors, such as retail and restaurants, where they are given a stable 40-hour work week.
It’s time for employers to start offering defined benefit pension plans to Ontario’s homecare workers. After spending their life looking after our senior population, there is no reason why this group of hard-working healthcare workers cannot retire with ease and comfort in their golden years.
Tell your MPP that Ontario’s homecare workers, our frontline caregivers, not only deserve a minimum of $16/hour, but a defined benefit pension plan as well. Our healthcare system depends on it.