May 26, 2020
TORONTO – The troubling reports from Canadian Armed Forces serving in long-term care homes in Ontario reinforces the systemic crisis in the provinces long-term care system.
“The report is shocking but sadly not surprising. The crisis in long-term care existed well before the pandemic and now we are feeling the impact of years of neglect,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The living and working conditions in long-term care homes are not the fault of workers, but of governments and operators that for years ignored cries for help by workers, residents and their unions. When operators are focused on profit margins and governments lack the will to improve working and resident conditions the outcome is bound to be horrible.”
More than 1,675 troops have been deployed to five Ontario long-term care homes, but many others in crisis have not received the same attention.
“The lack of oversight and investment into long term care by the Ontario governments has failed all Ontarians,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Providing quality care starts with adequate staffing levels. Unfortunately, due to years of neglect and privatization of long-term care, workers are either leaving the sector entirely or burning out because working short staffed has become the norm. It’s time for governments and operators to stop the lip service and start treating workers and residents with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
The union believes that the expansion of for-profit operators, lack of full-time jobs, fair wages and benefits for Personal Support Workers (PSW), who provide upwards of 80 per cent of hands-on resident care has created the crisis we are in today. Wage increases, generally set through a system of arbitration, have been below inflation for the last decade. Four out of five long-term care homes say they struggle to fill shifts, while nearly half of health care workers report working short-staffed every day.
“If there is one thing we can probably all agree on is that we must fix long term care immediately. We need full time work, decent benefits, including sick leave so these critical workers don’t have to come to work when they are sick. These workers were heroes before the pandemic and will continue after the pandemic,” said Dias.
Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.