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PSWs in Sault Ste. Marie, Northeast to return to work, reports say

Saturday, December 28, 2013   by: Darren Taylor

Over 4,500 striking Personal Support Workers (PSWs) in Ontario, employed by the Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners are now back on the job, according to national media sources.

The province-wide group included approximately 150 PSWs in Sault Ste. Marie and area (some of which are pictured here in a picket line photo from last week).

PSWs provide much-needed home care to the elderly and disabled.

The strike action affected approximately 850 patients locally, and approximately 3,000 across the Northeast.

The 4,500 PSWs hit the picket line Wednesday, December 11.

According to national media sources, the PSWs went back to work Friday.

Representatives of both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the PSWs that were on strike, and the Canadian Red Cross, were unavailable for comment.

The SEIU has said the union and the Red Cross will be working with an arbitrator beginning January 3, 2014.

The return to work comes as a surprise, as the workers pictured here told that a prolonged strike was expected, with no talks scheduled before the end of the holiday season.

The PSWs have been without a contract since April.

The workers want an increase in wages (dissatisfied with the current $15 an hour) and greater reimbursement for vehicle maintenance and mileage costs.

PSWs pay for gasoline mostly out of their own pockets when making trips to the homes of clients.

Local PSW Christine Oberholzer told us December 11: “Right now, none of us want to be on strike and we want to be taking care of our clients, it’s very unfortunate that we have to go through this to get what we need…sometimes you have to take a stand.”

Oberholzer told us: “We would like a wage increase, but that would be an added bonus…primarily, it’s the wear and tear on our vehicles to get to the homes of our clients, and we don’t get enough compensation in return for that.”

North East Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) Senior Director Sandra Campbell had told earlier that the strike was affecting some 850 patients in Sault Ste. Marie, and 3,000 patients across the Northeast.

The CCAC, Campbell told us, were in daily communication with Red Cross Care Partners (RCCP) regarding contingency plans and maintenance of service for clients.

This did not, contrary to unofficial reports, include the use of Sault College nursing students to fill in for striking PSWs, Campbell told us.

Campbell said PSWs from retirement homes, long term care homes, the CCAC’s own occupational therapists and physiotherapists, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), Bayshore Home Health and other community partners were all pitching in to fill the gap caused by the PSW strike.


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blue diamond 12/28/2013 6:19:18 PM Report

These people are amazing, and the support and work they do. Any I have had to deal with were so caring and helpful. If it were not for the PSW's, I truly believe the crisis for home care for the elderly would be even worse than it already is.

I do not believe it would be fair on anybody's part to crticize for what PSW's do or what they need to make a fair living. Especially if you have not had first hand support from them!

They truly are hidden angels. Thank You is not enough for what you did for my family. I support you 100%.
MarcHandthefunkybunch 12/28/2013 6:32:07 PM Report

Idiots, they will never make back all the money they lost. I have no sympathy for unions or people who strike. If you don't like having a full time, permanent job, with a pension and benefits, then I suggest you quit and find something better because there is a line up of people who would kill for that.
soowat 12/28/2013 8:22:07 PM Report


I assume that you are someone that lacked the skills to get anything other than a job at Timmies.

The exec's at Red cross abuse their employees and the union only knows how to collect dues

My sympathy for the PSWs who stood up for themselves knows no bounds.

I hope that if you or a loved one needs their services you will repeat your comment and try to figure out why they tell you to kiss their ass
I'm In 12/28/2013 8:52:28 PM Report

Right on soowat, MarcHandthefunkybunch who posted before you doesn't have a clue why people strike , strikes are not for money all the time , this one is about working conditions and with governments like PC and Liberal they will erode what unions negotiated for in the past.
quickcarl 12/28/2013 8:56:58 PM Report

You dont really know what a Godsend PSW's are until you have an ailing loved one that needs their care. Just think about much is it worth it to you if you have a parent or sibling or a close relative who might be living his or her last days of their life and needs professional and loving care from a psw?
I feel that we can't do without them and I hope they make a substantial monetary gain in the negotiations.
Zarm27 12/28/2013 9:07:00 PM Report

Not to comment on the specifics of the strike exactly, however the main aspect that needs to be considered is the employment agreements between employer and employee. This also includes specifics such as job description and rate of pay. If someone goes in knowing exactly what the job entails then personally I have no sympathy for any disagreement on their part, however as far as their function they have my full support and thanks. With the minimum wage being locked for so long, I do not see how the Red Cross could justify an increase in wage based on economics and the fact they function based off of donations. As many have said in other articles, if there's a desire to reach the $20 per hour mark, then apply at a retirement home, but be prepared for your work cut out for you, since there are multiple patients per ward. I do not judge the position, in fact I commend those that participate in it, and those that go in with their heart find something more than just financial gains, but knowing that they are helping someone eases their mind.

I will say that in regards to mileage, they should be paid accordingly, that being not just the amount to cover gas but also to give a bonus accumulated over the course of their time put in.

Happy Holidays!
CherRN 12/29/2013 8:07:25 AM Report

ALL community workers are underpaid - PSWs, RPN, RN's- pathetic in comparison to our peers that work in other sectors... yet we go above and beyond to ensure that patients have their 24 hour needs met in one visit. Driving around in inclement weather, going into uncontrolled environments and no sick days are all bonuses to community work..
Glad to see the PSWs are back to work- I have seen first hand how the strike has affected our patients- hope it was worth the time off...
mr.jack 12/29/2013 10:25:39 AM Report

some people just don't understand. when we go on strike, it has nothing to do about never get your money back as
marchandthefunkybunch would want you to think ,but for future reference. people fight today for tomorrow. don't anyone listen to marchandthefunkybunch because he dosen't know a thing ,,, he is a puppet he just does what he is told
ThinkAgain 12/29/2013 11:21:23 AM Report

Everything is government regulated - Unions are the thing of the past and are now killing the economy. Shame on anyone going on strike today. Why do you think everything is made in China-Japan.
CherRN 12/29/2013 12:06:39 PM Report

Yes.. that is the problem- government holds the purse strings and nothing filters down to front line workers... that is what is really happening... :(
quickcarl 12/29/2013 6:38:02 PM Report

Mr. Jack, I definitely agree with you. Ive belonged to local union 2251 most of my life and often wondered where we'd be if our forefathers didnt go to bat for us way back when.
I know that the PSW's taking a stand will be hard on many of their patients in the Sault and surrounding areas but what else can they do? They have to make a living too! I feel that they are getting underpaid and this is necessary to possibly makes things better for the many future PSW's who will be taking care of us when we get old and in need of tender loving care.
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Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Keep discussions civil and on topic. Refrain from obscenity and don't post anything that your grandmother would be ashamed to read. Those who do not abide by these guidelines will have their membership revoked without notice. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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