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Unifor protests working conditions for personal support workers

Union calling on Ford goverment to address PSW shortage in long-term care homes by improving pay, working conditions

Members of Unifor Local 1359 were joined by union representatives, front-line healthcare workers and supporters outside of Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano’s office Thursday to protest job conditions for personal support workers in long-term care facilities. 

Unifor is calling on the provincial government to improve pay and working conditions while increasing the number of full-time personal support workers in Ontario. The union is also calling on the Ford government to end for-profit long-term care throughout the province.   

Unifor Local 1359 President Cathy Humalamaki says that in addition to those demands, the union wants the province to implement care standards of four hours of daily hands-on care for each long-term care resident. 

“Right now they’re working at a critical condition of staff shortages - paying them extra money is necessary to a degree, but it’s only a bandage, because we need the time to care for the residents,” she said. 

Frances Ryan, chairperson for the Family Council at the F.J. Davey Home, tells SooToday that she doesn’t understand why personal support workers, who care for the family members of others, are being paid “so little” to do their jobs at for-profit long-term care facilities. 

“Not only do those people have to bathe them, clean them, get them up, get them dressed - they also have to engage with them,” said Ryan. “There’s no time for that.” 

Working conditions in long-term care is something that hits home with Rina Clark. Her late husband, a former physics teacher in two local secondary schools, spent four years at the F.J. Davey Home. Clark says that workers didn’t have much time to spend with him during his stay there. 

“It was not adequate at all, but they didn’t have any more time because they had 27 residents on one wing,” said Clark. “The big thing is, there’s not enough PSWs (personal support workers).”

“They’re not working full time, they’re part time. If you’re full time, you’re getting benefits, you work better.”

Humalamaki says it’s time for the province to end for-profit long-term care and provide more full-time jobs for qualified care workers.  

“We’re losing PSWs. They’re tired, they’re worn out. They’ve been working understaffed,” she said. “So we’re calling the Ford government to actually take action and fix it now.”

Unifor Local 1359 represents close to 1,000 personal support workers locally.