Nova Scotia

Continuing care assistants in N.S. getting 23% wage increase

Nova Scotia has announced it will spend $65 million to increase wages for continuing care assistants by about 23 per cent, making them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

There are 6,700 publicly funded CCAs in the province

The wage increase comes into effect on Thursday, and will bring the top annual salary to $48,419. (Getty Images/istockphoto)

Nova Scotia has announced it will spend $65 million to increase wages for continuing care assistants by about 23 per cent, making them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

The province said wages for unionized and non-unionized CCAs who work in facilities funded by the provincial government will increase by about 23 per cent on Thursday, bringing the top annual salary to $48,419.

There are 6,700 publicly funded CCA positions in Nova Scotia. For most full-time CCAs, the wage increase amounts to about $9,000 more a year, the government said.

Premier Tim Houston said long-term care facilities are short-staffed, and low pay has been driving CCAs away from the sector.

"There are hundreds of continuing care assistants in this province who are trained and amazing at what they do, but they aren't working in their chosen field, and I don't blame them," said Houston during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

"My message to those of you who have felt undervalued to the point that you left the profession — please come back. We need you now more than ever. We want you, we need you, we value you and we respect you."

Premier Tim Houston says the increase will make Nova Scotia a 'pay leader' for continuing care assistants. (Robert Short/CBC)

Houston said he had a call with CCAs across the province on Tuesday evening and heard that fair compensation was one of their top priorities.

He said that information helped inform the government's decision, but confirmed continuing care assistants only learned of the pay increase on Wednesday with the rest of the public.

Linda MacNeil, the Atlantic regional director for Unifor, said the increase finally gives continuing care assistants the pay they deserve, noting they have been fighting for years for better wages.

MacNeil, whose union represents roughly 2,000 continuing care assistants at long-term care homes across the province, said the increase will also help with recruitment and retention.

"At the end of the day, they do have to make a living, and for what they went through and the shortness of the staff, those that are still in the system, their dedication is what got them through. It certainly wasn't because they were well compensated," said MacNeil.

"This is something we've been asking for and it's great to see it come to fruition."

Linda MacNeil, the Atlantic regional director for Unifor, says CCAs were not being compensated properly and were leaving the system, even before the pandemic. (Submitted by Unifor)

NDP Leader Gary Burrill called the increase "a good start to improving the situations of both workers and residents in long-term care."

Still, he said there is a host of other workers, including cleaners and food service staff in long-term care facilities, who need wages that reflect the importance of their work. 

The province said groups with collective agreements that are already settled will be adjusted upward to the new levels and those not yet settled will incorporate the new pay scales.

It said collective bargaining will continue, but CCAs will not have to wait until bargaining concludes to receive the increase. The details and timing of implementation will be determined by the individual employers working with unions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aly Thomson

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Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at aly.thomson@cbc.ca.

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