Sarnia long-term care workers call for community support

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Large group of long-term care workers stand holding placards and flags

Long-term care workers at Sarnia’s Trillium Villa Nursing Home rallied and called on their community for support on Wednesday as part of escalating actions across southwestern Ontario after talks with employers broke down.

“We are here, as a new variant comes in and restrictions come back to long-term care homes right before the holidays, changing many of the ways in which residents could interact with their families,” Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi told the crowd.

“Yet again, it’s long-term care workers who will comfort the residents and be their second family, who will sit with them and offer them friendship and care over the holidays. And yet, your employer continues to bring concessions to the table. It’s shameful.”

Rizvi says employers must address the urgent and much-documented need for increased wages and improved working conditions in long-term care in Ontario. She called on all union members to show support for these caregivers as they “fight for the respect, protection and fair pay they deserve.”

Naureen Rizvi Stans with a member holding a picket sign and Unifor flag

The workplace action is the first of several planned actions, including Jan. 12, 2022 at 2 p.m. at Meadow Park Nursing Home in London. 

Dozens of members from several Ontario locals gathered beside a large wooden sign in front of the Trillium Villa that reads “Home of the Covid Heroes”.

“I see this huge sign, and it shows they know what heroic work you do in this facility, yet they won’t treat you like heroes. They won’t show you the respect or offer you enough pay to be able to care for yourselves and your families,” said Rizvi.  

The union has long fought for improvements to long-term care workers’ pay and working conditions. Under the strain of the pandemic, the sector experienced some of the worst impacts because of the existing staffing recruitment and retention issues.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm for so long and to feel like it’s fallen on deaf ears, especially after these last two years with the pandemic, has been so hurtful for every long-term care worker,” said Lisa Tucker, President of Unifor Local 302, representing the workers at Trillium Villa Nursing Home. “We need increased staffing and fair pay now.”

In its final report, the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission thoroughly documented the horrific and traumatic working conditions in Ontario’s long-term care system. The Commission also provided the Ontario government with recommendations to address staffing shortages, alleviate untenable workloads, and reduce high turnover in the system, particularly at privately operated homes, by increasing wages and benefits. However, Bill 37, the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act fails to include the report’s recommended action on improving working conditions and compensation.

Sign reads thank  you COVID heros
Women holding signs and Unifor flags on a picket line

“It’s a shame that we’re calling these folks heroes publicly but after all they’ve been through with Covid, the fact that we still have to have a rally and fight for fair pay is an embarrassment to our province,” said Tullio Diponti, President of Local 2458. “This fight will go on until long-term care workers are respected, properly equipped and supported in doing their jobs.”