Manitoba

Nelson House care home staff consider striking for higher wages like they did in 2016

Personal care home staff at a Manitoba First Nation plan to hold a strike vote next week because they say workers are being paid 14 per cent less than their counterparts in other rural facilities.

Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation care home staff wages 14% lower than other rural facilities, says CEO

Workers at the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Personal Care Home will vote Jan. 24 on whether to walk off the job. (Shutterstock)

Personal care home staff at a Manitoba First Nation plan to hold a strike vote next week because they say workers are being paid less than their counterparts in other rural facilities, echoing similar talk of a strike from more than two years ago.

Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Personal Care Home (NCN) staff will hold the vote next Thursday because they're being paid 14 per cent less than other rural Manitoba care home workers with similar training and responsibilities, according to a news release on Friday.

"The reality is that all First Nations [personal care homes] are underfunded, even though we provide the same care and services as other rural care homes that are 100 per cent funded by the province," Regitha Rajesh, CEO of the NCN.

"If we received the same funding, we wouldn't have wage disparity. Our employees are feeling disrespected and frustrated. They need to strike every time just to be treated equally. It's not fair to them and it's not fair to our elders."

About 75 per cent of NCN staff are represented by the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) and have been been without a contract since March 2018, according to the care home.

It would need $389,000 before its workers' salaries matched those of other care homes, the organization says.

Seven of its 24 care beds are funded by the province and the remaining 17 are covered by the federal government, the care home states in a release, and neither level of government have committed to raising wages.

"In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled, under Jordan's Principle, that Canada cannot discriminate
against Indigenous children on the basis of jurisdiction or geography," NCN Chief Marcel Moody said in a release.

"Another vulnerable group of people, our elders, are being denied equitable care."

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said it's too early to comment on the status of a new contract before discussing it with workers on Thursday.

"Our members deserve the same recognition for doing the same work as others in this sector, and value the care they give to elders in the community," she said in a statement. "They are seeking fairness and equity, and deserve no less." 

About 30 MGEU-represented NCN care home staff walked off the job in the fall of 2016 protesting for better wages. At the time, the care home said staff were being paid 27 per cent less than other employees with the same qualifications.

The strike ended in December of that year with a new two-year deal that included a 10 per cent wage increase.

CBC News requested comment from Manitoba Health but didn't receive a response.

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Bryce Hoye

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Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology. Before joining CBC Manitoba, he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring birds in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.