Personal support workers hold demonstration outside Schlegel Villages
WINDSOR -- Unifor is looking to ramp up pressure on both Schlegel Villages and the Ford government to back contract demands and solve what the union sees as a crisis in long-term care.
Unifor Local 2458 held a small demonstration Monday outside of a Schlegel Villages care home in Windsor.
“We told Schlegel in no uncertain terms that we're going to do what it takes to protect our members and protect these residents,” says Unifor national representative Chris Taylor.
Canada's largest private sector union is ready to step up job action in the face of what it calls a crisis in long-term care homes.
Taylor says personal support workers are overworked and in some cases, like this past summer at Walkerton's Brucela Haven long term care home, the PSW shortage is contributing to patient deaths.
“The fix is hard to say at this point, but my god you can certainly give housekeepers a full-time, 7-and-a-half hour day and tell the PSW's to do the right thing,” says Taylor. “There's no reason we don't have people getting showered because the PSW's have to go clean off a table. That's not their job.”
The union has proposed extending housekeeping hours to offer relief for PSW's in contract negotiations with Schlegel Villages, but says that's been rejected.
Talks between Unifor and Schlegel Villages broke down in January.
“We are providing a sensitive level of service to the residents here and family members are concerned about their loved ones so, anytime there's discussion about job action, there could be cause for concern,” says Schlegel spokesperson Matt Drown.
Drown says a shortage of PSW’s is affecting care homes across the province.
The problem has prompted new incentives to attract students, including new thousand-dollar bursaries at St. Clair College.
“You know staffing and under staffing is something that is a cause for concern for long-term care homes, for hospitals, for the health care industry in general so, we would certainly share those concerns,” says Drown.
Taylor says the provincial government has to step in too.
“Doug Ford ran on 'I'm gonna fix the issues in long-term care' and if this is what the fix is, we got a problem,” says Taylor.
Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls says the government continues to consult with stakeholders to find solutions, but isn't ready to commit to any new money.
“We realize that there's a shortage of PSWs out there,” says Nicholls. “We want to encourage career opportunities for people looking to get into healthcare that perhaps becoming a PSW could be a very good starting point for them.”
Unifor Local 2458 president Tullio Diponti represents more than 400 long-term care workers in Windsor.
He says some have a quiet cry in the car before heading into work.
Diponti feels the system is at a breaking point and something needs to change.
“If somebody dies in this facility, someone gets hurt, it isn’t our members fault because they're here and they're doing the best they can,” says Diponti.