'Rehired for lower wages': A look at BC's long-term care home sector

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NorthReport
'Rehired for lower wages': A look at BC's long-term care home sector

Unionization at Deadly Care Home Signals Change, Says Expert

Pandemic, NDP’s legal changes opening door to more unions in the sector.

Strongly leading Canada in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, the BC NDP government is now opening the door to addressing the working conditions at long term care centres in BC

LynnValleyCareCentre-3.jpg

Majority of 120 workers support a return to unionization, says HEU. Photo by Joshua Berson.

Care aides at the Lynn Valley Care Centre are looking to unionize in the wake of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the North Vancouver facility, signalling workers’ appetites for better working conditions and compensation in the beleaguered sector.

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The home suffered Canada’s first COVID-related fatality in March, with 20 residents eventually dying of the disease and more than 50 residents and two dozen staff infected before the outbreak was declared over in May.

The Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents more than 15,000 care aides, submitted an application to represent workers at the facility to the Labour Relations Board early this week.

A majority of staff had signed union cards, the HEU said in a news release, and a mail-in vote among 120 staff members will be administered by the board this week.

“In the face of this unfolding tragedy, and despite the risks they faced, these workers showed courage, and a deep commitment to the care of their elderly residents at Lynn Valley,” HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said in the release.

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“Now they are uniting together with HEU to advocate for safer working and caring conditions, and fair treatment from their employer.”

The HEU represents staff at nine other facilities in B.C. operated by Pro Vita, the contractor that provides staff to privately-owned Lynn Valley. It represented workers at Lynn Valley until 2007.

BC Liberal government changes in 2003 ending protection for employees when care home owners changed contractors led to contract-flipping and decreased unionization in the sector.

In 2001, the BC Liberal government introduced legislation allowing a number of long-term care operators to opt out of the existing master collective agreement.

The result today is contract “fragmentation,” said Whiteside, and disparate provisions across more than 80 separate agreements negotiated by HEU since 2001.

The move towards unionization comes on the heels of a pandemic that has revealed serious problems in the province’s long-term care system and left staff and residents vulnerable to the virus.

Bethany Hastie, a labour expert and assistant professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, said the pandemic could bring a new wave of union organizing.

“It’s really shone a light on the kinds of essential work that we maybe didn’t think of as essential,” Hastie said.

“In that particular industry, that privatization seemed to be followed by a depression in wages and in benefits… and these people are taking care of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

The vast majority of B.C.’s 164 virus-related deaths have been residents of long-term care, as have around 80 per cent of deaths across Canada.

These deaths include one care aide in his 40s, who worked in two facilities to support his family and died after contracting the virus at work.

Early in the pandemic, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry took over staffing at long-term care facilities across the province, offering some workers wage boosts and ensuring that each staff member only worked at one facility to limit potential transmission.

https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/06/05/Unionization-Deadly-Care-Home-Signals...

NorthReport

'Rehired for lower wages': A look at B.C.'s long-term care home sector

https://bc.ctvnews.ca/rehired-for-lower-wages-a-look-at-b-c-s-long-term-care-home-sector-1.4976993

NorthReport

Why are the home support workers who work for private agencies, who are not unionized at all, and who frequently go into long term care facilities to work, as well as private homes, never ever mentioned in these discussions?  

What's the point of leaving out the most vulnerable workers of all - the home support workers? 

What is it going to take to start paying living wages to all workers in BC?

kropotkin1951

NorthReport wrote:

Why are the home support workers who work for private agencies, who are not unionized at all, and who frequently go into long term care facilities to work, as well as private homes, never ever mentioned in these discussions?  

What's the point of leaving out the most vulnerable workers of all - the home support workers? 

What is it going to take to start paying living wages to all workers in BC?

A socialist government.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..a militant labour body

kropotkin1951

epaulo13 wrote:

..a militant labour body

Unfortunately in Canada they are as hard to find as a socialist government.

kropotkin1951

Although in the BC health cares sector the HEU does a good job and led the fight back against the BC Liberal's as they contracted out services to shed union certifications. Unlike in Britain and other places that the neo-cons privatized they reorganized the sector, albeit at lower standards than the master agreements they had been under but better than what was offered.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..the heu can't be expected to do it alone. not even the posties can do that. 

NorthReport

It's always the same, whether or not it's grocery store workers, home support workers, security guards, the fast food workers, and all the others of those who are at the bottom of the pay scale. And I would hazard a guess that a sizeable percentage of  these workers are both women and non-white. But of course Canada is not racist!  And some of these workers are sent to work far from home for a two hour shift. Minimum wage my ass!

NorthReport

What percentage of jobs in Canada are minimum wage?

According to Statistics Canada's data, in 1998, 5.2% of all Canadian workers had minimum wage jobs. Twenty years later in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, that percentage doubled to 10.4%. That rise wasn't steady either — in 2017-2018, the share of minimum wage workers rose from 6.4% to 10.4%.Sep 13, 2019

NorthReport

So what are the Liberals actually going to do about it?

https://www.timescolonist.com/grocery-workers-should-be-properly-paid-du...

NorthReport