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Community Connections Summer 2020 newsletter

OPSEU Community Health Care Professionals
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Message from the President

Thank you – you can count on us

I’d like to start by thanking each and every one of you.

Whether you work in home care, community care, for a LHIN, in a clinic, or for public health, the members of OPSEU’s Sector 17 – Community Health Care Professionals have played a critical role in helping us through the pandemic.

On behalf of all 165,000 OPSEU members, I want you to know that you and the work you do is valued and appreciated.

And I want to assure you can count on me and Eddy and OPSEU’s entire Executive Board to do everything we can to ensure that the Ford government values and appreciates you as well.

That’s why we’ve been fighting so hard to get you all pandemic pay. You all deserve it and we’ll keep on fighting.

That’s also why we’re fighting so hard against the privatization that’s baked into the government’s terrible health reforms. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that privatization can be deadly – most of those who’ve died of COVID-19 in Ontario have died in for-profit long-term care homes.

In formal government submissions, in the media, and in our communities, you can count on OPSEU to stand with you to fight for what’s right. Because we know we can count on you to provide our communities the best possible health care every day.

Thank you,

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU President

Click here for a printable PDF version of this newsletter.

Meet your sector Executive

Lucy Morton, Chair, lucyamorton@rogers.com

Campbell Manson, Vice Chair, presidentopseu4101@gmail.com

Kate Anderson, Secretary, kateanderson@yahoo.ca

Elaine Giles, Treasurer, elainegiles@hotmail.com

Marcus Andrew, Bargaining Representative, andrewmarcus0715@gmail.com

Karen Gventer, Newsletter / Communications, kgventerg@gmail.com

Morgen Veres, Member Representative, morgen.veres@gmail.com

Anne-Marie Roy, Education Representative, aleeshatyanna@hotmail.com

Bill 175 weakens oversight and rewards the for-profit sector in Home and Community Care Services

Bill 175 weakens oversight and rewards the for-profit sector in Home and Community Care Services

The Ford government’s new Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, 2020, allows the proliferation of private companies with less government oversight, and significantly weakens citizens’ involvement with health decisions in their communities. 

The new Bill opens the window to for-profit entities to organize and deliver health services under the newly created Ontario Health Teams. These teams replace the existing non-profit Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that previously determined health priorities within regions.

Private companies could now have influence over the face of health care in this province. Never before have private interests been given this much power over public health funds.

Ontario Health Teams will report to a new super agency, Ontario Health. Unlike the former LHINs, this agency will be less accountable to Ontarians. The Conservative-appointed board wields power over local health decisions and is not required to post information about its board meetings. There is no transparent process allowing citizens to engage with major health restructuring that could involve closing, merging or transferring services.

The “competitive bidding” process in the Home Care sector is largely to blame for the decline in the quality of care, lack of continuity of service, and driving down wages and benefits for those who work in the sector. The just-in-time, piece work service model has devalued critical care work and the well-being of home-care recipients and prioritized the interests of private companies. Sadly, the moratorium on competitive bidding that was introduced in 2008 has not stopped the decline in Home Care.

In 2015, Ontario’s Auditor General (AG) reviewed spending on home care and found that $1.5 billion went to third parties about five per cent – or $75 million – became profit. At the time, Home Care was managed through 14 regional Community Care Access Centres (CCACs).

The AG also pointed out that many CCAC executives got bonuses and raises despite an ongoing provincial wage freeze, and that the average CEO earned $249,000 in 2014.

While public funds were being diverted into private hands, home care rates differed wildly, there were no service standards, and there was not enough service to meet the demand. These problems continue to this day.

Not enough home care in the system in 2020

In January 2020, research led by a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital found that not enough home care was the top concern of Ontario patients (BMJ Quality & Safety, related to the British Medical Journal).

Increasing home care funding to divert patients from hospitals will not address critical quality issues unless the government removes the profit motive from the sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how the profit motive has undermined quality care, placing patients and workers at risk. Residents of for-profit long-term care homes in Ontario are far more likely than those in non-profit and public homes to be infected with COVID-19 and die (Toronto Star, May 8, 2020). 

For-profit delivery costs more, and produces poor quality services. That’s why British Columbia is in the process of taking over home care services. In 2019, the provincial government there announced that publicly funded home care services would be repatriated into the public sector in Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Island Health. The B.C. health minister said the move will improve scheduling, provide more stable hours, and make work less precarious, ultimately leading to better care.

Home Care sector, OPSEU’s recommendations

OPSEU has made a written submission to the Ontario government’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly outlining our concerns about less government accountability and oversight of Home Care under Ontario Health teams, and the expected expansion of for-profit delivery of service under Bill 175. Broadly, some of OPSEU’s key recommendations include: 

  • Upload Home Care services, removing the profit-motive in the delivery of service
  • Introduce minimum standard treatment guidelines, as recommended by the last AG review
  • Pay all health professionals and personal support services by the hour and not per visit

Read OPSEU’s submission to the Standing Committee here.

COVID-19 temporary pandemic pay

On April 25, the Ontario government announced it will provide temporary pandemic pay to frontline workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19. The pay increase of $4/hour covers the 16-week period from April 24 to August 13.

In addition to the wage top-up, a lump sum payments of $250 per month will also be available to eligible frontline workers who work over 100 hours per month. As a result, $3,560 in additional compensation would be available to eligible employees working an average of 40 hours a week.

OPSEU has decided not to collect union dues on any of this pandemic pay.

The list of eligible workers was decided solely by the government. OPSEU was not consulted in any way, nor informed of the pandemic pay before government announced it publicly.

However, after a series of conversations with government officials, OPSEU succeeded in expanding the list, but it still does not include everybody.

OPSEU has called on the government to compensate and protect all workers affected by the pandemic. The union will continue to advocate for every frontline worker that is affected in all sectors.

What is the sector? What do we do?

OPSEU has “sectors” and “divisions.” Their main job is co-ordinating activities within the group. This may include:

  • Deciding on common bargaining priorities
  • Organizing a province-wide action
  • Campaigning on a policy issue that affects members
  • Developing an organizing policy to bring union rights to more workers in the sector

Sector 17, Community Health Care Professionals, includes locals or units whose members are employed predominantly as health care professionals and paramedical employees in community-based health care. They are employed by the LHINs, public health, community addiction services, acquired brain injury services, community nursing, hospice, fertility clinics, community living, support services, respite and palliative care. Sector 17 is part of the OPSEU’s Health Care Division, and Sector 17 Chair Lucy Morton sits on the Health Care Divisional Council.

One thing our sector does periodically is to respond to government proposals that would affect the members of the sector. OPSEU staff write up comments based on feedback from members – usually the leadership in the Locals. Because of this, it is very important to have participation on teleconferences.

Your participation can have a direct impact on what is being requested of the government.

Any questions, comments, suggestions or requests related to the sector can be directed to someone on the executive.

Nurses on the frontlines during COVID-19

This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” marking 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale, the British social reformer and founder of modern nursing.

And never before has the nursing profession been as relevant and critical as it is during this pandemic – an average of 53 health workers a day have contracted COVID-19 in June. Nurses are taking personal risks at great costs, providing critical care and support to Ontarians in communities across the province.

Thank you to all of our nurses in OPSEU.

Nation-Wide Health Care COVID-19 Survey

This month, the Health Care Divisional Executive invited all Community Health Care Professionals to participate in a nation-wide health care COVID-19 survey. Our members continue to face difficult working conditions that include health, emotional and physical challenges. It is crucial that we document our experiences so that we can mobilize for change.

OPSEU has worked with other unions, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), and researchers at the Institute of Work & Health and Duke University in North Carolina on a survey that will report on workers’ experiences during the pandemic.

The results will be used to validate workers’ concerns, identify gaps, assess health and safety issues, and make recommendations for improvements.

We need to hear from you! Please add your voice and click on link to complete the survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/Pandemic_Survey

Member Profile:

Marcus Andrew

My name is Marcus Andrew, and I am newly elected as bargaining representative. I am looking forward to working with the other elected members and to learning more as I go.

I work at COTA (formerly COTA Health) on a multi-disciplinary team that uses multi-faceted approaches to client care. And I look forward to bringing that experience to my new role.

As the bargaining representative, I plan to encourage and help ensure that all our future agreements reflect fairness and justice, and are in harmony with OPSEU policies.

Case study: When an employer’s decision leads to union members blaming the union

Many Locals have gone through situations where the members have blamed the union for actions of the employer, or for not stopping those actions. It can be difficult to convince members to maintain faith in the union.

Here’s an example from a Local where, for a long time, eight members only worked weekdays while the other 80 members had a rotating schedule that included weekends.

When the employer decided to change that set-up and forced all 88 members to begin working rotating schedules including weekends, many of the eight who’d never had to work weekends were understandably upset.

Unfortunately, the change did not directly violate the Collective Agreement because it contains no clause specifying that the eight staff would only work weekdays.

To help prevent the eight from blaming the union for this change, here are some steps the union stewards took:

  • They phoned their Staff Rep to find out if the change would violate the Collective Agreement’s “management rights” clause. Case law (i.e. previous arbitration decisions) would help guide the decision about whether the change was grievable. But after careful review, it was determined that in this case, the employer had the right to change the hours of the weekday employees.
  • The stewards then educated the members about what the union is able to do, including the employer’s right to manage vs being able to grieve a violation of the collective agreement. It can be useful to have a regular communication with members, so that when an issue like this arises, it can be quickly and effectively addressed.
  • If the employer is adamant that it is going to make the change, can the union stewards negotiate strategies to mitigate the change? One example would be to agree to the change as long as no staff member works more than one weekend every three weekends. Another example would be to create a job-sharing option for staff who would prefer that.
  • If employees feel strongly enough to strike to keep current scheduling, stewards can find wording to introduce into the Collective Agreement and negotiate it in the next bargaining round. This wouldn’t stop the change immediately, but it could reverse it.

Stay in touch!

To get communication directly from the sector, please send your personal email address to Chair Lucy Morton at lucyamorton@rogers.com.

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