TRENTON, Ontario--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Employees of the Seasons Dufferin Centre retirement home in Trenton have voted to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union to improve their working conditions.
The retirement home employees have officially become USW members after holding a secret-ballot vote supervised by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Seasons Dufferin Centre is a for-profit retirement home, one of more than 20 such facilities owned and operated by Seasons Retirement Communities in Ontario and Alberta.
Housing and service options at Seasons Dufferin Centre range from independent living apartments to care for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The company charges retirees a minimum of $38,460 a year for a 351-square-foot bachelor unit as well as prices exceeding $60,000 annually for some two-bedroom units.
Employees at Seasons Dufferin Centre who joined the USW include care providers and staff in maintenance/housekeeping, dietary/kitchen services and resident activities. Wage rates for some employees start at barely over minimum wage, with some staff having to work for five years to reach a rate of only $15.24 an hour.
Workers said they considered joining a union at various times in the past and their concerns over working conditions came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought staff turnover, increased workloads and employees’ concerns going unaddressed.
“The expectations and the demands they put on us have been incredible,” said Amanda Grant, one of the workers who joined the USW.
“We’ve put in time we didn’t get paid for, we’ve worked through our breaks, we’ve done whatever we had to. We’ve done it because we care about our residents. We’ve become even closer to our residents during this pandemic,” Grant said.
The employees learned they lag behind their peers in other similar residences in terms of wages, benefits and other working conditions. They decided they needed a collective, meaningful voice on the job to address their issues, Grant said.
“They give us less than their employees who are unionized at some of their other homes, so it just made sense to join the union. Once people heard the United Steelworkers had our back, they were all-in. The choice was obvious to us. We don't feel alone anymore.”
Next steps for the employees include electing a bargaining committee and negotiating their first collective agreement with their employer.
“In the best of times, these workers provide vital care and services to our seniors under challenging conditions and circumstances,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve and support the residents they care for,” Warren said.
“We welcome these new members to our union and we will support them as they enter into collective bargaining to reach a fair contract that recognizes their dedication, the important work they do and their primary contributions to their employer's success,” he added.