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Personal support worker unhappy with arbitrated contract

Personal support workers employed by Red Cross Care Partners have a new contract, but not everyone is happy.
A Sudbury personal support worker says a new contract awarded by an arbitrator late last week doesn't go far enough. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Personal support workers employed by Red Cross Care Partners have a new contract, but not everyone is happy.

On Friday, an arbitrator awarded the contract, bringing an end to the dispute.

The Sudbury union representative with Service Employees International Union said the increases aren't enough.

Louise Leeworthy said there's a retroactive increase of 1.4 per cent to last April. And she said each of the remaining two years of the contract will see workers get 1.4 percent raises.    

As for travel allowances, she said workers will get a two cent increase to 36 cents per kilometre, with another penny increase next  year.

We feel there's no justice there. It is what it is. We have to take it.- Sudbury union representative Louise Leeworthy.

Leeworthy said there are other jobs with the same pay and fewer expenses.

“It's almost just as good to go out and work at Tim Horton's at $12.75 an hour or $12 dollars an hour and the take-home pay would be equivalent to what I'm taking now,” she said.

A total of 98 personal support workers in Sudbury went on strike in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The matter went to arbitration shortly afterwards.

While she's not happy with the deal, Leeworthy said the strike was worthwhile because they educated the public about their jobs.

“I think we've got ourselves publicly noticed,” she said.

“A lot of people did not view us as caregivers for the clients … [people] more or less [saw] us as … housekeepers and stuff like that.”

Leeworthy added the province caps the wages of experienced PSWs, yet the lesser-experienced ones are paid almost the same.

“We feel those people are coming up so fast behind us,” she said. “We feel there's no justice there. It is what it is. We have to take it.”

The new contract affects 4,500 PSWs in Ontario.

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