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Agreement, yes. Satisfied, no.

Sunday, January 26, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

After hitting the picket line December 11, 2013, over 4,500 Personal Support Workers (PSWs) in Ontario, employed by the Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners, went back to work December 27.

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

The workers (approximately 150 locally, some of them pictured in December), who picketed in bone-chilling cold, are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

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

The workers were expecting a fairly lengthy strike, but through arbitration, talks began January 3 and the SEIU and the Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners reached a new collective agreement.

The PSWs had been without a contract since April 2013.

While a settlement has been reached, Richmond Hill-based SEIU President Sharleen Stewart, speaking to, said: “It (the new collective agreement) isn’t as good as we hoped it would be.”

“It’s a minor improvement on what they voted down, 11 cents an hour more…the wage increase they got is 22 cents an hour more.”

Not a lot, but Stewart said: “A positive is that the employer wanted to pay them a lump sum, which would be a cheque for the year and not show up in their wage, and they will receive a lump sum cheque for the first year of the agreement because that first year has already gone by, but for year two and three they get a 1.4 percent wage increase.”

“That’s the norm now,” Stewart said.

$12.50 an hour is the lowest hourly pay rate for PSWs in Ontario, the highest approximately $18.30 an hour, Stewart told us, adding that the top rate for PSWs working for the Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners is $15.02, and that will rise by 66 cents more an hour by 2016.

The workers also wanted greater reimbursement for vehicle maintenance and mileage costs.

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

Prior to the strike, they were receiving 34 cents per kilometre in reimbursement. 

Beginning in April of this year, travel allowances for PSWs employed by the Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners will increase by two cents per kilometre, and one cent per kilometre the following year.

“That’s still not acceptable,” Stewart said.

To say ‘agreement yes, satisfied no’ would be an accurate statement, Stewart said.

However, some positives definitely developed as a result of the strike, Stewart said.

“One positive is that the workers and their clients were reunited.”

Stewart added: “What happened here is that there has been some education about homecare that the provincial government didn’t realize before the strike…these workers brought their stories out into the light, and as a result we have been in improved, regular contact with the government since the strike.”

“This past week the Premier and the Minister of Health personally met with six of our PSWs, without the union, just to sit down and hear their story and all that they are required to do in their jobs.”

Stewart said her union is currently attending and providing input at provincial government pre-budget consultations.

“In the upcoming budget we’re calling for the minimum wage for PSWs to be raised from $12.50 an hour, which was set back in 2006, to a minimum of $16 an hour.”

Stewart told us she thinks that request, and others from many groups with many issues province-wide, just might be considered by the government (and hopefully used by the opposition parties), with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals dangling in a minority government situation. 

“We’re disappointed in the contract but it’s a start in a journey…we may not have won the contract but we certainly haven’t lost the battle,” Stewart said.


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Retreaded 1/26/2014 6:35:54 PM Report

I feel badly that these hard workers are so mistreated by the employer. Sad indeed.
OrlandoFlorida 1/26/2014 6:49:48 PM Report

We as tax payers also bare some responsibility, most of us do not have need for a Health care worker - Yet!, most of us do not have family members needing a health care worker - yet! but eventually we will. These people take care of our loved ones, providing a service that many of us cannot give, in yet we allow governments to cut back services and nickel and dime the people who have chosen a career helping us. Without a liveable wage less people will choose to be a health care worker, and then what will we all do?
shju 1/26/2014 7:12:43 PM Report

Yes we need all forms of health care workers but with that comes more taxes. Its a balancing act. Cant have one without the other. Its like the min wage issue, that causes inflation to jump through the roof.
Pakadeva 1/26/2014 7:17:36 PM Report

Exactly Orlando!
$12.50 an hour is the lowest hourly pay rate for PSWs in Ontario, the highest approximately $18.30 an hour, is way off! $12.95 is the lowest I have heard of anywhere for PSW's. Here in the Soo it's mostly over $19.00 & up to as much as $23.95 an hour, so they should still be on strike cause PSW's have the hardest work of all in the nursing field & paid peanuts! You are right, healthcare workers will be needed & no one bothering because it's not money enough. Let's see the government toss over some funding instead of giving millions to other countries & maybe LOWER government official wages cause PSW's work far harder than any of them ever will! Heck, why not give back to the elders the care they need & deserve out of the pockets of Duffy & a few others just like him. Wonder how THEY will fare when they're elderly? Oh ya, a pension so high (for stealing from us) that they can hire their own private care.
soowat 1/26/2014 7:21:33 PM Report

My spouse worked for this outfit and left voluntarily. When one went to the office on Bay St one could hardly get in the door for all the high priced help standing around with their fingers where one couldn't see them. Our mighty MPP refused to look into the "top heavy " staffing. At one point my wife went for Knee replacement surgery. She was supposed to get in home help. All she got was phone calls telling her there was no one available. I f Red Cross is looking for financial assistance my answer is, "Put your lips to my cheeks." I'm not talking about the cheeks on my face. They won't let these people collect blood for a reason, It's too bad The big "O" doesn't look after his constituents and make sure the RED CROSS has nothing to do with looking after people
jojoe71 1/26/2014 7:26:35 PM Report

Harper can afford to give millions away to third world countries. Yet these workers who deserve a decent wage go without. Is something wrong with this picture ?
speed7 1/26/2014 7:33:50 PM Report

this is all hogwash
never trust an agency to handle funds for the sick or elderly as we speak a quadraplegic is bieng denied care in his home! check sault star article
nice!this is the problem with our government. speak up if you have something to say email a comment to ministry of health and long term care and call the action line. stop the misspropriation of healthcare dollars. you may need it someday so take action now!
speed7 1/26/2014 7:36:01 PM Report
dandrew61 1/26/2014 7:44:21 PM Report

And where are all the Essar haters? If this article were about Essar there would be a dozen posts by now screaming how people at Essar make too much and their paid to sleep and they don’t deserve what they get already ...... etc. People will feel bad about how “little” the PSW’s got in their contract. The projected average wage increase across Canada this year is about 2.8%. Based on a base rate of $12.50/hr the PSW’s got an increase of 1.76%. Not quite the Canadian average but when compared to the Essar increase of ....... nothing, that’s right, no wage increase, it could be a lot worse. Now look at their desired increase from $12.50 to $16.00 and we’re talking about a 28% wage increase, 10 times the national average. Not bad for what is in the most part, part time employment and only requires 2 semester of education at a community college. Now before people start rebutting me with how hard PSW’s work and the sometimes terrible working conditions you should know that I have firsthand experience with the PSW occupation. My post is purely wage based and does not question the validity of the PSW worker. Whether it’s government or private sector, what employer could possibly give a 28% wage increase and still stay viable? We have to be realistic in employment and can’t expect everyone to be paid based on what someone else gets. How many PSW’s died on the job in the last 10 years? I wish the numbers were the same for Essar workers.
patch123 1/26/2014 7:49:41 PM Report

This service falls under the province's authority . Every year the monies from the federal budget have increased to the provinces . Under the McGinty / Wynne liberals the quality of health care has consistently gone down and the price has gone up . The Red Cross is supposed to be a charitable organization . It appears that their charity starts with the executive and management . One has to ask whether the arbitrator was impartial....I mean REALLY !!
soowat 1/26/2014 8:08:13 PM Report


I'm pretty sure every PSW would happily work for an Essar Steel wage. Keep in mind That Essar Steel workers look after Steel. PSWs look after people. Which skill set is more important?
HONEST1 1/26/2014 8:51:30 PM Report

These people work extremly hard and are grossly under paid. They provide a service that can and will affect everyone to at some point in our lives!! These people should be making more then the lazy teachers in our school system. What a joke!!!
Dictionary 1/26/2014 9:25:17 PM Report

in 10 years we'll hear from baby boomers about the poor services they receive. what goes around comes around and the managers/administrators of today are in a for a rude awakening tomorrow as a large portion of the population hits their golden years.
jimbobdog1 1/26/2014 9:34:01 PM Report

The provincial government pays Red Cross/Care Partners $30 per hour for PSW services. Red Cross is heavily loaded with managers and supervisors, many of whom couldn't find their butts if they used both hands. If some of the overhead was lopped off, PSWs could be paid what they deserve. Any talk about % increases is just crap and doesn't warrant any discussion at all. Red Cross will never get another nickel out of me, not for donations, tickets or anything else. They are blood-sucking bureaucrats.
speed7 1/26/2014 10:26:53 PM Report

right on target jimbo
honest did someone bring up teachers on this topic? totally lame and way off base
Pakadeva 1/26/2014 10:27:08 PM Report

Paying a PSW $12.50 an hour is a disgrace, an insult, I don't know how they hold on to their workers. I'm thinking there's a large turnover of staff moving on to better jobs. They could make that much at Timmie's with tips & have HEALTH CARE COVERAGE! The $30.00 an hour allowance should be taken up with government officials & Red Cross made responsible for getting rid of the icing folks & pay the actual working people (PSW's) a fair wage. Government needs to find out where their/our money is going instead of going to the help of those caring for quadroplegics for instance, cutting that man off is a disgrace to our city & our government.
speed7 1/26/2014 10:33:06 PM Report

12.50 an hour is misleading .Id like to challenge weather that really is true? most likely not
speed7 1/26/2014 10:46:31 PM Report

all the PSW job postings I searched online were between 18 and 22.95 an hour
Pakadeva 1/26/2014 10:51:28 PM Report

A friend of mine works there & that is exactly her wages. Yes, what you quote is what they SHOULD be getting.
speed7 1/26/2014 11:32:42 PM Report

PAKDEVA has she shown you her paycheque?
speed7 1/26/2014 11:39:13 PM Report

they can get whatever they want as long as the government stops blowing the money to the on expensive administrative staff and not the using it to care forpatients in need. I wont punch below the belt and start bringing teachers onto this topic
AndrewRwho? 1/27/2014 6:48:41 AM Report

dandrew61, im curious as to how much an essar employee makes? it took 25 years for some employees to earn their hard 15.20 or so, its not 16$. so yeah maybe their has been a fairly big increase as the wage had been around 5$. so yeah, I guess you have a point, just over 10$ in 25 years? phew, we should be thankful, if red cross cant make a change by themselves, why not turn to the government for a little more funding so that these workers can save for their old age, btw, not even a fair pension plan!!! hard to earn benefits, and no sick days.
Kelly61 1/27/2014 12:51:10 PM Report

l worked for the red cross and was fired for not wearing the proper uniform, they were so bad that if a client fell in the bath we were to leave them and call 911 in all cases. And l know management makes triple or more to sit in an office and lecture me for 2 hours making HUGE money to fire me for wearing legging because im tall and my ass was hanging out, nice eh.
speed7 1/27/2014 4:11:38 PM Report

if you ask me the minister should be intrviewing clients not PSW workers this is poorly biased. Ask the quadraplegic what his experiences have been. Has to wait for a small bed sore on his ass to get bigger so a nurse would come see him ....imagine that! They wont send a nurse to do injections or administer medicsations gotta do that yourself. talk to the patients who see it all! THEY know best! Audit theses agencies. if they loose their contracts too bad they did it to themselves! .... too greedy the government needs to know what the clients are getting with this beautiful healthcare system we have.......NOTHING! The hospital is way worse all the the things a nurse used to do a PSW now does. All those young hoardes ofsault college students fill in making all their jobs much easier. nice!
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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