Ford’s recent announcement on making pandemic pay permanent for personal support workers (PSW) in community care, long-term care homes, public hospitals and those providing services to children is welcome news, and long overdue. But, concern remains over upcoming details, such as to whom the increase will apply.
“The IAM has a growing footprint in healthcare, and we are glad that the Ford government has recognized the important work of PSWs, but given the initial rollout of the temporary wage increase excluded many deserving healthcare workers, we’re hopeful the government won’t make the same mistake twice,” commented David Chartrand, General Vice-President for Canada.
As business shut down, and people worked from home, health workers were in the epicenter of the pandemic without any ability to control risks of exposure. Healthcare workers had more than a seven-fold higher risk of severe COVID-19 transmission. The pandemic hit close to home as there were outbreaks in workplaces where IAM members work, and there is no doubt about the risks our members have taken.
Difficult working conditions, long hours, short-staffing, demanding work and lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), were just some of the issues that came to light during the pandemic, and yet, the Ford government was slow to consider a temporary wage increase. When the provincial government finally introduced the temporary wage increase, there were many caveats and numerous health workers, as well as, frontline workers across the province who were excluded. Ford had the right idea in mind, but struggled with the rollout.
Chartrand points out that, “the risks all healthcare workers have taken for the good of their patients, clients and residents has benefitted our communities, they along with other frontline workers have been our backbone throughout the pandemic. In looking after the wellbeing of others, their own and their families’ wellbeing and safety was jeopardized. They must not be shortchanged.”
As more details are forthcoming, Chartrand urged the Ford government on behalf of IAM healthcare members to acknowledge the selfless efforts of these workers, and the value of their work by extending the permanent pay increase to all those in the health sector. “Without the care, expertise and skills of our healthcare workers many more Canadians would have succumbed to COVID-19; their tireless work shouldn’t be part of a political game, the Ford government is indebted to health workers and must apply the permanent increase broadly”, added Chartrand.
And, if there is genuine interest in addressing issues in the health sector, the Ford government must also implement recommendations from health advocates and unions that ensure the best possible care is available to Ontarians.