When work was contracted out, the number of sick days for workers was reduced from 10 to 3.
Ottawa (25 March 2020) ― For workers in long-term care homes, many of the details in a Globe and Mail article on the tragic outbreak of COVID-19 at the Lynn Valley Care Centre will sound all too familiar. The outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre saw 36 residents and 18 workers test positive for COVID-19 and has already resulted in 8 deaths.
These details include the impact of privatization and outsourcing on wages, sick leave and staffing levels, and how these in turn impact the safety of both residents of long-term care facilities and the people working in them. The article also talks about how workers “were incredible in their attempts to help the residents,” even as they were exhausted and the centre was under-staffed.
Sick days cut after work outsourced
Lynn Valley Care Centre is a private for-profit facility. According to the article, a few years ago the jobs at the facility were outsourced.
Because workers did not have successor rights (which ensure collective agreements stay in place when a new contractor takes over), outsourcing meant they lost union representation. Workers rehired by the contractor saw their pay and leave time cut.
When work was contracted out, the number of sick days for workers was reduced from 10 to 3. Paid vacation was cut from 22 days to 10 days. Wages were cut by $2 an hour.
As the article points out, these cuts didn’t just hurt workers. When taking a sick day means not having enough money for rent or groceries, it is a lot harder for workers to take time off when they are sick.
Workers doing double shifts
What was also clear in the article was the commitment workers in long-term care bring to their jobs. Even though they were exhausted, and even though they were at risk of getting infected, workers were doing double shifts in an attempt to make sure residents of the home were looked after.
No one familiar with long-term care homes will be surprised at the commitment workers are showing to the people they are looking after. And, unfortunately, no one familiar with the impact of outsourcing and privatization will be surprised at the conditions workers face and at the tragic consequences of those conditions.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE