Residential care homes say they'll close if they don't get help with minimum wage hike

Hamilton's residential care homes are at risk of closing if the government doesn't help them shoulder the minimum wage increase. But the city says it can't afford to help.

'With all due respect, we just don't have the money,' Coun. Sam Merulla says

Calvin Cain and Sonia Brown say residential care homes house Hamilton's most vulnerable residents, but the minimum wage hike threatens their future. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's residential care homes are at risk of closing, three local administrators say, if the government doesn't help them shoulder the minimum wage increase.  

But the city says it can't afford to help right now.

Three managers of local residential care homes – which house adults with special needs – say they're happy their workers are making more.

But it's increased their already tight budgets by 25 per cent, said Calvin Cain, a director with the Ontario Home for Special Needs Association who manages a local home.

"This situation is urgent," Cain said.

"Every day, every month, we have to pay staff." And unlike private businesses, "we cannot download cost payments to residents."

"I'm not upset that there's an increase," said Sonia Brown, who manages three residential care facilities. "The staff should be paid that."

But local facilities are already underfunded, she said. They receive $50 per person per day, and have been years without an increase.

So "how do we do that? That's our ask."

The administrators got sympathy, but no money during a presentation to the emergency and community services committee Monday. The city will review its residential care facilities soon, but there's no guarantee that will bring more money.

City councillor says the province needs to help

Even if it does, Cain said, it won't happen fast enough. Each pay cycle, facilities go deeper into the red. The association is lobbying the province, but facilities need help now.

These homes are like families to their residents, Brown said. For some, it's the only family they have.

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, said the city sympathizes, but this falls on the province.

"With all due respect, we just don't have the money," he said.

"You have to really put the target on the back of Queen's Park."

The residential care homes aren't the only place the city is feeling the pinch.

Next month, four companies with city contracts – the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, Star Security Inc., ServiceMaster Contract Services and Sunshine Building Maintenance – will all talk about the need for more money to cover minimum wage increases.

Doug Goodrow of ServiceMaster Contracts says the company has provided custodial services for the city for about 30 years. Now it's looking at a 22 per cent budget increase.

He hopes the city will agree to renegotiate the contract.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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