RICHMOND HILL, ON, Jan. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - "I'm happy to report that on January 8, a neutral arbitrator issued a new contract for our PSWs working out of Red Cross. It is an improvement over the previous tentative agreement and proves that when we stand together, we can put pressure on employers and government for change," said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare, the union representing the 4,500 caregivers who were on strike across Ontario in late December.

Interest arbitration is normally reserved for essential service workers but was used in this case to help resolve the strike on its second week just before the holidays. The contract is binding for the workers and for the employer, Red Cross/Red Cross Care Partners.

"I was blown away by the passion and dedication of these women and men who stood up for their rights after rejecting a contract that didn't do them or their services justice," added Stewart.

SEIU Healthcare continues its campaign to fix the homecare system. It intends to work with government to mandate substantial improvements in recruiting and retaining homecare PSWs. To do this the government must recognize the value of this critical work by providing homecare PSWs the same wages, benefits, and compensation for all hours worked just like their counterparts in hospitals and nursing homes.

The PSWs voted down a tentative agreement in November and went on strike on December 11. The parties agreed to interest arbitration as a means to end the strike as they were not able to negotiate a contract that would be satisfactory for both parties.