“Sweet $16” campaign seeks wage hike for all homecare PSWs

About 80 homecare PSWs from across Ontario came together in Toronto this week to share their work stories, rally around the “Sweet $16” homecare campaign, which seeks a minimum wage increase for all homecare workers, and learn about the power of collective action.

The new “Sweet $16” campaign is asking for four concrete things from the Ontario government:

  1. Raise the minimum wage for homecare PSWs from $12.50/hour to $16/hour (as a first step toward parity with PSW work in long-term care)
  2. Offer retirement security through a good pension plan
  3. Declare homecare an essential service
  4. Provide access to standardized and ongoing continuing education and specialized training opportunities to meet the evolving needs of homecare clients

Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews spoke to personal support workers yesterday morning, thanking them for the at-home healthcare services they provide to thousands, including Matthews’ own mother.

”The sad reality is that most Ontarians would be appalled at the working conditions of these caregivers,” said SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart, who teared up at the conference while remembering PSWs who were unable to afford proper winter clothes while out on the picket line last December.

In January, six SEIU Healthcare homecare PSWs, who work long hours at low wages to care for people in their own homes, met with Premier Wynne and Minister Matthews (video).

Soon after, the Ontario government publicly committed to providing better support to homecare personal support workers in an update on its healthcare action plan.

 

Ontario homecare announcement gives hope to PSWs

(January 27, 2014 - Richmond Hill, ON)

Last week, six SEIU Healthcare personal support workers (PSWs), who work long hours at low wages to care for people in their own homes, met with Premier Wynne and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews (video) to discuss severe problems with the homecare system.

And today, the Ontario Government publicly committed to providing better support to personal support workers (PSWs) in an update on its healthcare action plan. Minister Matthews emphasized the growing importance of homecare in Ontario and lamented the low wages of PSWs.

“On behalf of thousands of dedicated personal support workers who are in this job despite the poverty-level wages because they love helping people, I thank Premier Wynne and Minister Matthews for making a public promise to help frontline workers. Homecare is in crisis and we need to do something about it,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, the homecare union representing the 4,500 Red Cross workers who went on strike last month.

SEIU Healthcare is advocating for the following changes to appear in the upcoming provincial budget:

  • Increasing minimum wage for homecare to $16/hour as a step toward wage parity with personal support work in long-term care

  • Investing strongly in frontline workers by improving access to benefits and pensions

  • Making homecare an essential service

  • Access to continuing education opportunities to meet the evolving needs of homecare clients

On tragedy in L’Isle-Verte and nursing home safety

Like many other Canadians, we were terribly saddened by news of the fire that killed dozens of elderly residents of L’Isle-Verte , Quebec the early morning of January 23. What those individuals experienced at the very end of their long lives is painful even to imagine.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who tragically lost their lives in the fire at the seniors’ home in L’Isle-Verte,” said SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart. “Canadian seniors deserve to be safe in their homes. As a society we have a duty to keep them secure. It is hard to find the words to comment on this terrible incident.”

Unfortunately, low staffing levels make tragedies like this more likely to happen. Emergencies often occur during understaffed evening, night, or weekend shifts. In some workplaces, there could be one staff member for 30 residents or more during these shifts, making evacuations difficult or impossible.

“We can never entirely eliminate safety risks, but we can reduce them significantly with enough staff to take care of residents,” said Stewart.

SEIU Healthcare is asking for more hours of care a day per resident in Ontario long-term care. We have pushed for this at every level of government, and we belong to the Staffing Alliance for Every Resident (SAFER) coalition of unions, educators, and elder advocates, but there is still not enough money being invested in long-term care to make sure these residences have sufficient staffing levels.

Given Ontario’s sad record of nursing home fires, we support the government considering making sprinkler requirements retroactive.

But it is not good enough to wait until tragedies happen. We need to take care of our seniors now and a large part of the solution is to increase staffing levels to mitigate safety risks.

Update: 2-week homecare strike ends as Red Cross contract goes to interest arbitration; fight for justice continues

RICHMOND HILL, ON, Dec. 27, 2013 /CNW/ - "Today, our bold strike is over. We are pleased to announce that thanks to the pressure you put on Red Cross, your contract is going to interest arbitration, the first step in recognizing homecare work as an essential service," said SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart on Christmas Eve to 4,500 striking caregivers across Ontario.

"You stood up for yourselves. You showed Ontario what personal support workers are made of. We are ending the strike, but continuing the fight for justice for PSWs."

"Homecare PSWs should be compensated at a level similar to that of their colleagues working in nursing homes and hospitals. We hope the arbitrator will come up with a contract favourable to the hard-working caregivers that are on front lines of the healthcare system," added Stewart.

SEIU Healthcare and Red Cross will meet with an arbitrator on January 3, 2014. In the meantime, PSW services resume for thousands of clients across the province.

PSWs received an outpouring of community support from across the province during the two-week strike over poor working conditions.

SEIU Healthcare thanks the clients and families, local politicians, businesses, union allies, labour councils, and MPPs who came out to support the PSWs on the picket lines, and looks forward to ongoing support in their efforts to fix the homecare system.

 

For further information:

Sagal Ali 
SEIU Healthcare 
416-347-4906 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Strike update: PSWs rally, ask Ontario Government for support as Red Cross remains silent

RICHMOND HILL, ON, Dec. 18, 2013 /CNW/ - Mindful of the season, the frigid conditions, and the PSWs' desire to get back to work, SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart says: "It is time to settle this strike so that the PSWs can return to their beloved clients during this important time of year for families and close ones."

"We hope Red Cross is willing to compromise to improve the working conditions of these hard-working and desperately needed homecare workers. "

Hundreds of PSWs will rally today at three Ontario Ministers' constituency offices in hopes that the government will help resolve the homecare strike that started December 11.

Red Cross has remained silent on returning to the bargaining table since 4,500 workers went on strike.

What: PSWs rally to ask Ontario Government for help resolving homecare strike

When: Wednesday, December 18 at 12 noon

Where:

1. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Constituency Office, 242 Piccadilly Street, London

2. Yasir Naqvi, Labour Minister
Constituecy Office, 109 Catherine Street, Ottawa

3. Charles Sousa, Finance Minister
Constituency Office, 120 Lakeshore Road W., Mississauga

Hundreds of messages to MPPs have been sent from PSWs, clients, and supporters since the strike began. "Personal support workers take care of our elderly and vulnerable. Why aren't we taking take of personal support workers?" asked Stewart.

www.justice4psws.ca
www.j4pswsblog.wordpress.com (photos, stories from the picket lines)
@J4PSWs
@SEIUHealthCan

About SEIU Healthcare

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 55,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario. The union's members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province. SEIU Healthcare has a strong track record of improving wages, benefits and working conditions for healthcare workers, supporting the training and development needs of its members, and strengthening standards in the management and delivery of patient and client care. www.seiuhealthcare.ca

SOURCE SEIU Healthcare

For further information:

Gilleen Witkowski 
SEIU Healthcare 
416-805-0305 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Day three: PSW strike; SEIU Healthcare calls on Premier Wynne to order Red Cross to bargaining table

RICHMOND HILL, ON, Dec. 13, 2013 /CNW/ - SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart today called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to take responsibility for the refusal by the province's largest homecare agency to find a solution to the province-wide strike by 4,500 personal support workers.

"Red Cross is not working to settle this strike and they have not contacted us since the tentative agreement was rejected," said Ms. Stewart.

"The leaders of this for-profit company are being paid $300,000 a year with public funds that should be going to improve care for clients. Instead, they are forcing poverty-level wages on women who are now fighting for justice on a freezing picket line."

Union members voted overwhelmingly to reject a tentative agreement that included an 11-cent per hour increase to a $15 per hour salary, with no significant improvement in other issues such as the lack of pay for travel time and the full cost of gas for visiting clients.

"It is time for the Premier to get involved," said Ms. Stewart. "While the politicians are on holiday, the homecare system is being wrecked by a rogue agency. People affected by this strike will see this as one more example of a failure of accountability for the misuse of public funds."

Ms. Stewart is on a tour of picket lines across Ontario where PSWs are standing strong and gaining support from community members.

@J4PSWs
@SEIUHealthCan
www.j4pswsblog.wordpress.com (photos, stories from the picket lines)

About SEIU Healthcare

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 55,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario. The union's members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province. SEIU Healthcare has a strong track record of improving wages, benefits and working conditions for healthcare workers, supporting the training and development needs of its members, and strengthening standards in the management and delivery of patient and client care. www.seiuhealthcare.ca

SOURCE SEIU Healthcare

For further information:

Gilleen Witkowski 

SEIU Healthcare 

416-805-0305 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.