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Wynne government must admit responsibility for home care strikebreakers

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas today released the following statement:

When the Wynne government wants to take action, things happen.  We see that with the two tentative agreements just reached with the teachers.

Similar action is long overdue in the health care system.

On Friday, August 14, members of the OPSEU executive board and Local 294, members who work at CarePartners, occupied Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins’ office in downtown Toronto.  They demanded the minister meet with OPSEU to discuss the unconscionable behaviour of government-funded CarePartners.

The sit-in worked.  We will meet with Minister Hoskins next Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

Our message to the minister will be simple.  The Wynne government is actively assisting the attempt to break our union using taxpayers’ dollars.  It is unconscionable that the government is currently paying strikebreakers to do the jobs of health care professionals.  The government should stop this funding immediately and do what it did for teachers and ensure a fair contract is reached.

“Using taxpayer dollars to prolong legal work stoppages is not only a waste of money but belies any claim that this Liberal government is progressive towards the needs of our most fragile citizens and our skilled health care workers, the vast majority of whom are women.

Previously most home care was performed by salaried employees of not-for-profit organizations. Then Community Care Access Centres (CCAC), which are 100 per cent funded by taxpayers, put home care out for competitive bidding.  For-profit companies competed to provide services, such as in-home dialysis, complex wound care and palliative services.  The cheapest bid won, so these companies drove down their costs by suppressing wages and benefits.

The citizens of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant region deserve much better service than their CCAC is providing.  It currently pays their nurses by the visit rather than by the hour.  This means they often work for less than minimum wage. They have no sick days or compensation for overtime. Health care professionals, whose work is vital to the community, deserve better treatment.

At the same time, the owners of CarePartners — who are simply intermediaries because all of their funding comes from taxpayers — pay themselves handsome salaries and build large corporate offices.  A thick layer of for-profit fat, which previously did not exist, was introduced to Ontario’s home care system. The result is that patients are receiving poorer care and health care professionals are seeing good jobs destroyed.

Our public healthcare dollars should go towards patient care, not fattening the bank accounts of companies employing strikebreakers. The Liberal government not only has allowed this mess to exist but is now actively making it worse.

It is time for Minister Hoskins to personally intervene and resolve the CarePartners dispute.  I’ll be driving that home when we meet next week.  It should be government policy that home care workers are paid by the hour and not by the visit.”