Personal Support Workers (PSWs) from various sectors of OPSEU/SEFPO gathered online yesterday to discuss issues of concern, share their experiences, and network with fellow PSWs.
Two one-hour virtual gatherings took place in the afternoon and evening, offering PSWs and support workers the opportunity to learn more about OPSEU/SEFPO’s PSW advocacy initiatives, including:
- The creation of an OPSEU/SEFPO PSW Network
- A dedicated PSW Advocacy section on the OPSEU/SEFPO website
- Activism initiatives related to Bill 283 and Bill 124
- Proposals looking at offering PSW liability insurance
- Hiring a dedicated PSW Advocate and Researcher, Laura Bulmer, to work on special PSW projects in an effort to advance the profession.
During both sessions, facilitated by Laura Bulmer, robust conversations took place, recognizing the many challenges facing PSWs as unregulated health care workers.
We were honoured to have former NDP MP Olivia Chow drop by the evening meeting, where she shared her own experiences with PSWs, listened to the concerns of our members, and encouraged our members to keep building their PSW network and advocating strongly for themselves and their work politically.
Participants reported staff shortages across the board, in community, facilities and home care work settings. It’s hard to attract workers to an occupation with low wages, and part-time positions with no benefits and no paid sick time. Pandemic pay increases are only temporary, and do not apply to everyone. And Bill 124 caps wage increases at 1% per year, not even keeping up with inflation.
Members shared their concerns about being expected to perform nursing-level assessments and skills on the job, increasing their accountability and liability, and their need for liability insurance for protection. Unfortunately, Bill 283 does not address this concern, since it only provides for voluntary registration, not true regulation of the profession.
Both sessions ended with draws for gift cards as door prizes for those in attendance. Also announced were the winners of the two $100 VISA gift cards which were awarded by random draw to two of the members who signed up for the OPSEU/SEFPO PSW Network by November 1.
(You can still sign up for the PSW Network any time – just click the link and fill out the form!)
Both sessions provided a welcoming, empathetic atmosphere, while promising that together, united PSW voices can make a difference. Members expressed gratitude for these two virtual events and are looking forward to future gatherings.