Madeleine Dubé

Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé announced in a press release that the hourly wage for home support workers in the province will go up by 25 cents per hour on Oct. 1. (CBC)

Janet Gee, executive director of the New Brunswick Home Support Association, calls an announcement by Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé to increase the wage paid to home care workers by 25 cents per hour "devastating."

Home care workers currently earn an average of $11 per hour.

In a news release the Department of Social Development says, "An investment of $725,000 will be used to increase support of home support agencies to $16.33 per hour from $16 per hour, effective Oct. 1. Wages for support home workers will go up by 25 cents per hour."

Gee says that was surprising news for the association which represents 45 home care agencies that employ 3,500 home support workers.

Home care agencies are contracted by the Department of Social Development to provide home support.

"It's not helping us recruit people, it's not helping recognize people for the training they have," Gee said.

She says a reasonable wage increase in this economic climate would have been $1 per hour, raising the hourly wage to $12.

A pay equity evaluation by the women's equality branch of the provincial executive council office found home support workers should earn a minimum of $13.15 per hour.

Home care agency workers now certified

Gee says all of the 3,500 home care workers employed by home care agencies in New Brunswick are now trained and certified.

A 240-hour course was developed by the association and she expected that increase in training would lead to a higher rate of pay to the agencies, and consequently to the workers.

"I just could not believe that we were not better recognized," Gee said.

"If we brought our people up to this level of training … that was part of our understanding with government that it would be recognized."

Gee says recruitment and retention are the number one challenges faced by home support agencies, with turnover rates as high as 30 per cent annually.

"If you're looking at trying to bring in more workers with our aging population, and we need to recruit, there's nothing attractive about 11 dollars and 25 cents."

A recent CBC documentary found that people in New Brunswick are struggling to find home support, particularly during nights and weekends, and in some cases have no choice but to stay alone or call 911.

Gee says the NB Home Support Association will now try to lobby MLAs for support.

The Department of Social Development refused to comment on the announcement. 

In Nova Scotia, home support workers earn about $18 per hour.