Members of the Ontario Nurses Associated joined SEIU Healthcare workers on the picket line Wednesday outside the Community Care Access Centre’s Carrick Street headquarters. SEIU Healthcare workers went on strike at midnight to protest low wages.
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Frigid temperatures did little Wednesday to discourage striking personal support care workers from marching on a picket line demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
About 25 members of the local branch of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare went on strike as of midnight Wednesday, said employee representative Bill Joblin.
“We’re here in demonstration to try to get these employees a living wage, to try to provide them with a proper benefit package and try to allow them the opportunity to properly provide for their families,” Joblin said.
“Their wages are definitely under $15 an hour. To get to the $15 an hour rate they have to be there for 6,000 hours, which is four or five years.”
Joblin added the workers have been without a contract since April.
He called the workers heroes, explaining why they should be in line for a hefty increase.
“They take care of our mothers, our fathers, our disabled children. Nobody really knows what the Community Care Access Workers do. They go into a house in a neighbourhood and nobody really understands the kind of quality of work that they do,” Joblin said.
“These people are so dedicated to their clients and it’s a really difficult time to be out right now, but they have to stand up for their own families and try to provide the best that they can. That’s why we’re here today.”
On Tuesday Joblin told reporters personal support care workers, who work under the Red Cross Care Partners banners, make a maximum of $14.50 an hour under their most recent contract.
Kari Jefford, president of Canadian Auto Workers local 229, joined workers on the picket line, saying health-care employees are under attack across the country and across the province.
“In this day and age, it’s ridiculous that corporations are getting richer and richer and our workers are under more and more pressure,” Jefford said.
“PSWs, as well as many more health-care workers across Ontario and in our region alone are usually underpaid and are working the hardest without that many resources for them.”
Workers have been in a legal strike position for several weeks and recently rejected Red Cross Partners’ latest contract offer.
According to a release issued on Tuesday, personal support workers have seen their earnings drop seven per cent over the past two years, directly tied to a wage freeze, inflation and the price of gas.
About 4,500 workers across Ontario were expected to walk off the job on Wednesday.
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