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Home care layoffs reveal flaw in the law: OPSEU

Parry Sound – A group of personal support workers (PSWs) with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in Parry Sound all received permanent layoff notices this Wednesday, when the VON announced it is ending its contract to provide home care services in the region. The contract will likely be handed over to CarePartners, a for-profit agency with non-unionized workers and lower hourly wages.

“Demand for home care is not going down in Parry Sound,” said Lucy Morton, chair of OPSEU’s Community Health Care Professionals Sector. “These layoffs reveal the ugly truth about how contracting out really works, and what it means for workers – often those in the most precarious positions.”

Under the Labour Relations Act, workers are not entitled to ‘successor rights’ — the right to maintain unionized status and current collective agreement – in situations that involve re-tendering of contracts.

“If workers, like the PSWs in Parry Sound, aren’t willing to take concessions set by their employer – resulting from changes in government funding or otherwise — they are threatened with the prospect of losing their jobs,” said Morton. “The contract can be ended and the service shifted to another agency, which can undercut costs by paying lower wages and providing poorer working conditions. This is at the root of the contracting out debacle, and it is hurting patient care.”

The final report of the Changing Workplaces Review, which concluded a two-year review of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA), did recommend that the government extend successor rights into home care funded by the government to protect the improvements achieved through collective bargaining, and the stability of employment.

In response to that report, the government has introduced Bill 148, which will extend successor rights to the building services sector but not the home care sector.

“This government talks a big game when it comes to ‘putting patients first,’” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “But true patient care depends on respect for frontline workers, and we just aren’t seeing that.

“Through collective bargaining, workers are able to gain improvements in their working conditions. The re-tendering of these contracts wipes that out entirely. If this government is serious about improving working conditions for the most vulnerable and precarious employees, than they must amend Bill 148, and extend successor rights to home care, plain and simple.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Lucy Morton, 905-317-9464