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Extendicare workers take strong and symbolic vote to strike – if only they could

June 12, 2019 - 12:00 AM

TORONTO - Hundreds of Extendicare workers from ten nursing homes across Ontario voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action after they were asked: “If it were legal for you to strike, would you be prepared to do so for a fair contract?”

“This vote symbolizes the extreme frustration health care workers across the province are feeling,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Our members working for Extendicare work short staffed on a daily basis which prevents them from providing the care their residents deserve. The company must address the poor working conditions that have led to a massive shortage of personal support workers across Ontario.”

Votes were held at Extendicare homes in Chatham, Kingston, London, Napean, Oakville, Ottawa, Port Stanley, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor.

“The solution to addressing the crisis in long-term care is not complicated. Extendicare must offer workers reasonable wages and a safe place to work. When workers are treated well and paid fair wages, they can provide better care to residents. It’s as simple as that,” said Dias.

According to retired Carleton University Professor Hugh Armstrong, the Ontario government provides fewer resources to long-term care and compensates workers less than any other province and any other OECD country, by most measures. Armstrong is currently professor emeritus of social work and political economy.

“It doesn’t surprise me that an overwhelming majority of Extendicare workers would vote in favour of striking,” said Andy Savela, Unifor Health Care Director. “The deplorable working conditions, including working short-staffed daily, has led too many Personal Support Workers to burn out and leave the field altogether.”

The Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act (HLDAA) prohibits strikes and lock-outs where collective bargaining involves employees of the hospitals and long-term care homes.

“We refuse to be intimidated into agreeing to a settlement that is less than our members deserve. We have the support of residents, families and the community. We are determined to fight the Ford Government on every front in this regard,” said Savela.

Unifor, in conjunction with the Ontario Health Coalition, has been hosting round-table meetings on the PSW shortage across Ontario bringing stakeholders together, including employers, colleges, politicians, concerned family members and citizens, as well as front-line caregivers.

The employer’s tactic is to offer wage increases below inflation and force workers to arbitration,” said Kelly-Ann Orr Unifor National Staff Representative. “It always seems like the money is available for lawyers but not PSWs who are taking care of our loved ones. The employer needs to re-evaluate its strategy and start addressing PSW shortages.

The full report from the round-table meetings will be released in September. 

Unifor represents more than 30,000 health care workers, including hospitals, long-term care, emergency services, and community and social services and is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell)