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Strike countdown begins for 140 Renfrew County home care workers

RENFREW – A no board issued Monday begins the countdown towards a possible September strike action by Paramed Home Healthcare staff in Renfrew County.

About 140 unionized professional and support staff provide home care services throughout the County. The no board places the workers in a position to strike as early as September 2.

Paramed has already told staff that it has asked the Champlain Community Care Access Centre to stop referrals to the agency.

Paramed is trying to extend its wage freeze to five years for nursing and home support staff. Only personal support workers (PSWs) will be receiving any increase thanks to directed funding from Queen’s Park.

Home support workers start at $12.88 per hour – well below the rate of poverty in Canada. In addition they are expected to own their own vehicle to shuttle between appointments. With a significant rise in energy costs this year – including the cost of gas and electricity – the workers say they cannot afford to fall further behind.

Predominantly low-wage women, the home care workers are in a David versus Goliath struggle against one of the largest for-profit health care corporations on the continent. While the front line staff struggle in poverty, Timothy Lukenda, the CEO of parent Extendicare, was reported to have earned $1.129 million in compensation in 2012.

“The Wynne government has recognized the need for recruitment and retention in this sector,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “On the one hand they have increased compensation to the PSWs only to see for-profit agencies try to claw back compensation in other forms.”

The Champlain CCAC has seen an increase in demand over the past two years, the number of patient served increasing by 11 per cent between 2011-12 and 2013-14. In addition, the number of labour intensive complex referrals has jumped by 48.8 per cent during the same period of time.

“It is unlikely the CCAC will be able to replace these workers in the event of a strike,” says Thomas. “That means more patients will unfortunately be staying in the region’s hospitals for much longer and at much greater expense.”

For more information, contact Nelson Ross Laguna at 1-800-268-7376 ext 5445 or 613-324-4174.