PETERBOROUGH, Ontario--(BUSINESS WIRE)--St. Joseph’s at Fleming front-line staff and home administrators banded together at a community rally today to tell the Ford government that a wage cap policy under Bill 124 is disproportionately harming not-for-profit care homes and must be repealed.
Like other not-for-profit homes in Ontario, St. Joseph’s at Fleming is captured under the PC government’s Bill 124 introduced in November 2019, that caps compensation and benefit increases to 1% – far below the rate of inflation. Yet, the legislation exempts for-profit long-term care providers and municipal nursing homes from any restrictions for existing staff or new hires.
This, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees and St. Joseph’s at Fleming management, gives an unfair edge to for-profit and municipal long-term care providers when it comes to retaining and attracting registered practical nurses, personal support workers and other care staff, because it enables them to offer higher and more competitive wages.
CUPE, which represents workers at St. Joseph’s at Fleming, has been a strong, vocal opponent of Bill 124, that many agree exacerbates the severe staffing crisis in the long-term care sector.
“CUPE members have worked tirelessly through the pandemic and are committed to providing residents with the highest quality of care,” says Candace Rennick, Secretary Treasurer of CUPE Ontario and former employee of St Joseph’s at Fleming. “The Ford Conservatives must recognize that working conditions are care conditions and they must put an end to policies like Bill 124 that directly impact working conditions and give for-profit homes a leg up. Instead, we need a comprehensive strategy to recruit and retain staff including higher wages, more full-time jobs and better working conditions, so that homes can provide high-quality public care to our elders and our most vulnerable citizens.”
Rennick continues, “It’s not often that unions and employers speak on the same side of an issue. I want to acknowledge and thank the management team at St. Joseph’s at Fleming for showing courage and leadership in calling for Bill 124 to be repealed, so that they can go to the bargaining table and negotiate freely with their employees.”
“The Ford Conservatives stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the superhuman pandemic effort of workers in our public services,” says Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “Their wages have been below inflation for decades. It’s not a meager 1% increase that will compensate for the psychological and physical strain they are going through daily, nor will it allow them to feed their families or bargain the necessary improvements, like paid sick days, that workers need to keep themselves and residents safe. All the experts agree that compensation is the key to attract and retain staff in long-term care and that we need to act now.”
Not-for-profit homes are losing their most skilled workforce and due to Bill 124, they are unable to stay competitive in the health sector’s labour market. And while not-for-profit homes are dedicated to residents' well-being – and had consistently better outcomes during the first waves of the pandemic – this legislation makes it harder to provide quality care and to implement the minimum daily care standards that residents deserve.
“We have been hard hit not only by the pandemic, but also by this unfair legislation. We believe that residents deserve the best care there is. To do so, just like every other home, we need to hire staff, but our hands are tied because the government prevents us from offering competitive working conditions. Our staff deserve to be compensated just like all other front-line workers. They are heroes, we mean it and we want to be able to show it,” says Carolyn Rodd, Chief Executive Officer at St. Joseph’s at Fleming.
CUPE, along with numerous other unions, believes that Bill 124 is unconstitutional and have launched a legal challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The union has consistently advocated for higher quality resident care through higher and consistent staffing levels.
70,000 Ontario hospital workers (45,000 CUPE members) currently in bargaining, have also rallied throughout the summer, asking the government to repeal Bill 124 and allow them to bargain a fair wage increase.