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Home and community healthcare workers submit petition to MPP for higher wages

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Home and community healthcare workers in Windsor have submitted a petition to the MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh — calling on the province to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a "fair wage increase."

A group of about 15 workers met in front of MPP Andrew Dowie's office Wednesday to submit a petition, signed by a significant majority of CUPE Local 8916's membership.

CUPE Local 8916 represents 138 members who work for Erie St. Clair Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS) as nurses, personal support workers, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists among others.

In 2019, the Ford government passed Bill 124, which capped salary increases for public sector workers, including healthcare workers, at one per cent per year for three years.

The legislation was aimed at address the province's fiscal challenges while ensuring the sustainability of public services, Ford government officials said at the time.

However, it faced criticism from workers who argued that it limited their ability to negotiate fair wages that kept up with the cost of living.

Earlier this year, the province repealed Bill 124 after the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the legislation was unconstitutional because it violated workers' bargaining rights.

Paulina Van Velzen, who has worked for Erie St. Clair Home and Community Care Support Services for the past six years, said her current wage makes it "tough to make ends meet" and generate any kind of savings.

CUPE Local 8916, representing Erie St. Clair Home and Community Care Support Services workers, provided a petition to MPP Andrew Dowie's office calling on the province to return to the bargaining table on May 8, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

"To try and make any sort of emergency fund if, for example, your car breaks down, we can't do that," said Van Velzen.

Van Velzen is tasked with scheduling patients for their physical and occupational therapy visits to ensure they get the amount of visits they require each week.

She said the repealing of Bill 124 has resulted in wage increases for other HCCSS workers.

"Our work is all about getting the healthcare that people need. We work hard and we would like to be compensated the same way everyone else has been," said Van Velzen.

According to the president of CUPE Local 8196, more than 85 per cent of members signed the petition that was submitted to Dowie's office Wednesday.

"The only offer that they've given us was an insulting one a few months ago," said Shaun Steven. "It was almost nothing and it wasn't retroactive. It was coming in at the very end of our contract," said Shaun Steven.

Steven added the purpose of showing up to Dowie's office was to show the MPP — who was not at his constituency office at the time of the rally — that their demands must be taken seriously.

"I know a lot of our members have families and children. They have lots of expenses and we just can't keep up with the cost of living in Ontario," said Steven.

MPP Andrew Dowie was unavailable for comment Wednesday, according to a staffer who accepted the petition outside his constituency office.

According to CUPE officials, Wednesday's demonstration in Windsor is the first of eight being held across the province.

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