Unifor discusses crisis in long-term care with Ontario Minister

Unifor discussed the crisis in long-term care in a meeting with Ontario Long-term Care Minister Rod Phillips on August 9, 2021.

“I extended my challenge to spend a shift in a long-term care home to Minister Phillips,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “We need to fix the crisis in long-term care and hopefully spending a shift with me will help push the government to make progressive changes for residents and workers.”

Unifor secured the meeting to raise important issues facing Ontario health care workers, outline key concerns and share the union’s recommendations after sending a letter to Minister Phillips.

Dias was joined at the meeting by Assistant to National President Katha Fortier, President of Local 302 Nancy McMurphy and Unifor Director of Health Care Andy Savela. The Unifor delegation raised the following issues to the Minister:

  • The failure of for-profit care.
  • The need to move immediately to four hours of daily care per resident.
  • Lack of any action from most operators, including creating full-time work or any meaningful effort to increase staffing or address the staffing crisis.
  • The trauma experienced by many of our members working in long-term care and the immediate need to focus on retention.
  • The need to require operators to provide 70% full-time work.
  • Growing use of the sub-classification of PSW’s that have been created by many employers.
  • Lack of transparency from operators in reporting hours of care as well as percentage of full-time workers, use and cost of agency workers and reliance and cost of overtime.
  • No plan to attract the thousands of PSW’s who have left the sector to return with decent working conditions.
  • Emergency orders that still override our members’ collective agreement rights and are simply used to compensate for lack of staff.
  • Fair pay for ALL LTC workers.
  • For-profit operators fight to deny employees maintenance of proxy pay equity as well as the efforts from Bass and Associates to supress wages over the last decade.
  • Concerns with OPSWA as a legitimate representative for PSW’s.
  • General concerns on pandemic pay, leaving other workers behind and issues raised in this letter to Premier Ford
  • Retirement home challenges. (while this falls under the MOH, many residents in retirement homes are actually waiting for LTC)

“The crisis in long-term care existed long before COVID-19 in terms of proper staffing levels, the number of full-time jobs, the ability to earn a living wage and the ability to provide residents with the amount of daily care that they require,” said Dias. “We stressed to Minister Philips that residents and workers cannot wait years for policies, including four hours of daily care, to be implemented. Clear action is needed and it’s needed now,” said Dias.

The Minister noted that he has been attending surprise inspections with compliance officers regularly in nursing homes, speaking directly with the inspectors and the staff.

The Minister and his staff indicated that their immediate priorities include enforcement and transparency, but also said that they anticipate significant issues with timing and still envision a multi-year process. They did clearly state that the four hours of care will only include direct care from nurses and PSW’s. They also stated they are working on a plan to extricate the sector from the emergency orders but did not give a firm timeline.  The government indicated legislation on the four hours of care could be expected mid-fall and that Unifor is welcome to participate in that process. They do have plans to include transparency on several items including resident and family satisfaction, hours of care and fulltime work.