New long-term care act to finally recognize minimum hours of care

TORONTO — Unifor welcomes the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021, introduced today by the provincial government, and continues to push for better working conditions for all in the sector.

“This is good news for long-term care residents. After decades of inaction and the terrible reality of lives lost in the pandemic, a comprehensive change was needed, and this new Act aims to answer some of those major demands,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Unifor is encouraged to see this Act introduced, but that doesn’t mean we will stop pushing this government to move up the timelines and improve conditions of work for members.”

The new act, tabled today in the provincial legislature, establishes 3 hours of direct care by March 31, 2022, scaling up annually to 4 hours of direct care by March 31, 2025. In addition, it establishes minimum average hours of care by allied health professionals to an average of 33 minutes per day by March 31, 2022, and 36 minutes per day by March 31, 2023.

The Ministry would be required to report annually on progress, and to make LTC home-specific data available to the public.

The Union is concerned that the Act does not include amendments to labour standards including full-time jobs or proxy pay equity for LTC workers, who remain grossly underpaid and currently face precarious, physically demanding jobs.

“If passed, this is the first time we will see minimum standards of care written into law in Ontario,” continued Dias. “That victory for LTC workers cannot be overlooked or understated. However, government must back up this new Act with better working conditions in order to draw people back to the sector and achieve the minimum hours of care that are now required.”

The new act also identifies new requirements for infection prevention and control (IPAC). Importantly, the Act intends to amend enforcement to allow the Minister to suspend a licence and have a LTC supervisor installed without revoking a license and closing a home.

The union intends to provide detailed feedback to government and participate in upcoming consultations to represent LTC workers’ rights and well-being. Unifor engaged in the recent Long-Term Care Commission and made recommendations at every possible stage, including additional independent and joint union lobbying, budget recommendations, and other pressures on government.

“Unifor will review every aspect of this proposed legislation in detail in the coming days, but today we congratulate every LTC worker who has made their voice heard and campaigned to improve conditions in LTC in this province. Your work is valuable, and your voices are strong,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.

Unifor has long called for a minimum standard of care to be enshrined into law in Ontario and across the country, along with improved conditions of work for all in the sector, and the elimination of for-profit operators.