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May 19: Personal Support Workers Day

On behalf of the OPSEU Executive Board, it’s my privilege to pay tribute today to the tens of thousands of personal support workers (PSWs) in our province, including several thousand OPSEU members, on the occasion of Personal Support Workers Day in Ontario.

PSWs are part of a network of heavy lifters in the health care system, and it’s fitting that a day is set aside each year to recognize their hard work. As our population ages and life expectancy increases, the skills, resourcefulness and dedication of PSWs will pay an increasingly important role in the health care and well-being of all us. They don’t receive nearly the level of recognition they justly deserve.

It is estimated there are more than 100,000 PSWs in Ontario. They can be found in hundreds of workplaces, including hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes and retirement homes. Their responsibilities can find them visiting clients in their homes and other supportive living environments.

PSWs enjoy a level of patience and dedicated commitment to their clients that we greatly admire. Their responsibilities are vast. Whether it’s light housekeeping, meal preparation, grooming, bathing, feeding, or acting as escorts to medical appointments or social events, among many other tasks, PSWs are available around the clock, seven days a week, to provide assistance to clients and their loved ones. One might describe them as our “ambassadors for peace of mind.”

OPSEU is proud of the role it played in forcing the provincial government to deliver on significant wage increases to PSWs three years ago. In some cases, PSWs saw their hourly wage increase by as much as four dollars. But our struggle for better wages and benefits isn’t finished.

The wage increase plan is checkered, and too many PSWs have not yet seen their rightful increase. Our fight will not stop until justice for PSWs is served.

Personal Support Worker Day is a timely reminder that it takes a village of PSWs to tend to those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to perform the daily functions many of us take for granted. Our province would be a much poorer place without the work of PSWs.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Ontario Public Service Employees Union