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Unifor recognizes Personal Support Worker Day with a call for action

May 17, 2017

TORONTO - On May 19, Unifor will recognize Personal Support Worker (PSW) day and extends its gratitude to all PSWs.

“Personal Support Workers are an indispensable part of the health care sector, providing crucial front-line care and assistance to patients and residents for all aspects of daily living,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “As hands-on, direct care providers, these dedicated workers are asked to deliver quality care despite the punishing working conditions, especially in our nursing homes, which we highlighted in our #6minchallenge video.” 

The reality is, despite their importance to the patient/resident care team, inadequate staffing levels, precarious employment, and now a crisis level shortage of PSWs embodies the working conditions of PSWs, particularly in the long-term care sector. Most PSWs are only offered part-time, temporary or casual employment, so they work several jobs to make ends meet. Still more are leaving the profession altogether because their workload just doesn’t allow them time to provide the care that seniors and others living in long-term care deserve.

Adding to this, compensation for a minimum wage job has risen significantly, while PSWs wages have risen only 7% over the last seven years in the nursing home sector, including a two-year wage freeze awarded by an arbitrator. PSW courses are being cancelled due to lack of enrollment and employers are resorting to desperate recruitment measures including offering staff rewards for finding new PSWs, free education with paid hours, and even trying to hire what is essentially a PSW helper. 

“As we head into a provincial election, we need to steer the conversation from simply building long-term care beds, to adequately staffing them,” said Andy Savela, Unifor Director of Health Care. “Right now in Ontario there are beds ready to open, but the employers are not able to find PSWs to staff them and no one is talking about that.”

“Not enough PSWs really means that there may be no vacation time this year, and that they will work shorter than ever with ratios that could easily double from the normal of ten to twelve residents for each PSW on a day shift, said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “The working conditions are unimaginable, and the conditions of care are unacceptable. This requires immediate implementation of a measurable standard for care of 4 hours every day for every single resident, and adequate compensation that recognizes the value we place on those who require care, and those who provide it.”

Unifor encourages all Ontarians to ask all MPPs and candidates to pledge their support for not simply more beds, but more care, and challenge them, and others to the #6minchallenge; unifor.org/6minchallenge

For more information, please contact Asma Farooq, Unifor National Communications Representative at asma.farooq@unifor.org or 647-327-9371 (cell).