Manitoba

Thousands left out in $5/hour pay bump for caregivers: union, opposition MLAs

Thousands of caregivers on the front lines of Manitoba's pandemic response are feeling left out because they're ineligible for a temporary $5 per hour pay bump from the provincial government, union leaders and opposition MLAs say.

CUPE leader says some front-line staff 'being tossed aside'

The province recently unveiled the two-month wage supplement for caregivers who provide direct or residential care to vulnerable Manitobans during the pandemic. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Thousands of caregivers on the front lines of Manitoba's pandemic response aren't being treated fairly after being declared ineligible for a temporary $5 per hour pay bump from the provincial government, a union leader and the Official Opposition say.

Health-care aides working at hospitals, along with home-care staff and dietary workers, are among the employees left out in the increase, the Opposition NDP and Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba said at a news conference on Wednesday.

"They're [not being] recognized and they're being tossed aside," CUPE Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault said. 

The province recently unveiled the two-month wage supplement for caregivers who provide direct or residential care to vulnerable Manitobans during the pandemic.

Staff eligible for the $35-million caregiver wage support top-up include health-care aides at personal care homes, housekeeping staff, direct service workers and recreation workers.

Boissonneault said the program is helpful, but it's creating a divide between staff eligible for the pay bump, and those who aren't. 

"I can tell you, every day my phone is ringing off the hook … [with people] saying, 'Why am I not being treated the same?'"

She points to health-care aides at intensive care units "working with people that are dying daily, and are not receiving this pay."

"Why are they being treated differently?"

Opposition 'playing politics': minister

Nahanni Fontaine, the NDP MLA for St. Johns, co-wrote a letter asking the government to reconsider the caregiver support benefit to include more workers.

"We want folks that are on the front lines of this issue, that are working on behalf of all of us and putting their lives at risk day in and day out, all to get the $5 wage boost," she said.

In a statement, Families Minister Heather Stefanson didn't say whether the province was planning to expand the criteria for eligibility for the increase.

Instead, she said "the Opposition is playing politics while we are delivering real support to front-line workers."

She also cited $120 million spent on a wage bump program over the spring and $10 million to address staffing challenges in the disability services, child care and child welfare areas.

Under the current parameters, the province estimates 20,000 workers are eligible for the increase.

Workers at personal care homes or in disability services, child welfare services, homeless and family violence prevention shelters or long-term care facilities can apply. To qualify, workers must earn less than $25 an hour.

A full-time worker could receive an extra $1,800, the government estimates.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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