Over 4,000 personal support workers (PSWs) walked off the job on Wednesday December 11 as part of a province wide strike.
PSWs working for Red Cross Care Partners have been in a legal strike position for several weeks. Workers contend that their actual wages have dropped seven per cent in the last two years due to a wage freeze combined with inflation and the increase in gas prices.
"They are paid poverty-level wages of $15 an hour and are expected to pay for gas out of pocket when they drive long distances to make home visits" said Sharleen Stewart, the president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Canada, which represents the 4,500 affected workers, in a statement released to media.
In addition to requesting a wage increase from the Red Cross, SEIU is calling on the government of Ontario to improve a home care system that they describe as "falling apart."
A study done by the Health Council of Canada last year found that home care services need to be improved, especially for high needs clients like seniors with dementia.
The Health Council, along with The National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation and the Canadian Home Care Association, has noted that national leadership may be needed to start addressing problems for both personal support workers and their clients.
"For example, Australia has a national home care system," said Shilpi Majumder, speaking with rabble.ca in November. "We think Canada can draw from these other practices in other countries."
PSWs began day one of their strike with a large rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto in the hopes of drawing attention to these very issues. A number of other rallies were held at locations around the province.
Workers are also calling on their clients and their clients families to come out and show their support.
Photo: John Bonnar
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