Ontario extends pay bump for PSWs, but the career has more issues than pay, worker says

The provincial government says it's extending wage increases for personal support workers in Ontario. 

'We need a more desirable career ... We need more time to take care of people properly'

The province's temporary wage enhancements of $2 to $3 per hour for personal support workers will continue until June 30. They say they hope to stabilize, attract and retain the workforce needed to provide a high level of care, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Cambrian College)

The provincial government says it's extending wage increases for personal support workers in Ontario. 

PSWs have been receiving an extra $3 an hour since October, as part of the COVID-19 response. That wage bump has now been extended until at least the end of June.

According to a staffing study released by the province last year, PSWs in Ontario long-term care homes make an average hourly wage of $22.69. That compared to the $17.30 average hourly rate paid to homecare PSWs.

Sault Ste. Marie PSW Rachel MacLean says extra pandemic pay is not enough to truly address problems within long term care. 

"A wage increase is important because it would invite people into the career," she said.

"But if once they get there they don't want to stay, it's not helpful. So we need a more desirable career. We need more time to take care of people properly."

MacLean says long term care homes need more supplies and equipment, as well as increased staffing, to allow more one-on-one time with residents.

The province recently promised to invest more than $115 million to train more PSWs in Ontario. 

Sudbury MPP Jamie West held a virtual townhall with PSWs Thursday night and called on the government to recognize the work and sacrifice of PSWs during this pandemic with a permanent pay increase.

"Tonight we heard from PSWs who are being run off their feet doing incredibly challenging work that takes a toll on their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. They play an essential role in caring for our loved ones and maintaining public health," said West.

"Unfortunately, too many PSWs are forced to leave this important field because they simply can't afford to make ends meet on PSW wages. It's time to permanently increase their pay so they don't have to worry about putting food on the table."

New Democrats have been calling on the Ford government to support a permanent pay increase for PSWs, full-time work for PSWs in home care, and to achieve four hours of daily hands-on care for every long-term care resident by hiring 10,000 full-time PSWs in long-term care, and providing paid training. 

"Temporary pay that only came into effect eight months after the first wave of COVID-19 is not the answer," West said.

"Personal Support workers risk their safety and wellbeing to care for our loved ones every day; they are consistently underpaid and overworked, and they deserve better from this government."

With files from Sarah MacMillan