Remembering those who went on strike for this raise

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If you paid close attention to the Ontario election that just happened you may have learned what homecare is (as opposed to hospital or long-term care) and who personal support workers (PSWs) are.

And if you were paying super close attention to the news during the winter, you may have heard about the 2-week strike that PSWs went on to protest their contract negotiations breaking down with their employer, homecare agency Red Cross Care Partners.

This summer Ontario PSWs (the more than 30,000 of them!) have a great reason to celebrate: a $1.50/hour raise was finally approved in the government’s budget, to be followed by other raises altogether totaling $4/hour by 2016.

This is exactly why those 4,500 hard workers went on strike: they knew the homecare wage situation was getting desperate, and needed to do something to help change that at the political level.

So it was very troubling for me to hear from a homecare PSW living in a small town in the Niagara region. She wrote:

“We have lost several terrific PSWs off our team over the last two months. Most of these PSWs supported our strike during the horrific winter weather, so it saddens me that they have decided to leave before the raise was implemented. The raise is much needed with the rising gas costs and to ensure that there is a better future for those of us who work in homecare, so I am hoping that this will come before we lose any more members.”

That says it all.

The hope is that one day the government will accept that homecare wages will be at parity with long-term care personal support work. But change is so frustratingly slow. However, the first ask of the “Sweet $16” campaign has been achieved and together we are on the right path.

G.W.

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