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Community organizations and unions join their voices with home support workers

2013-11-29

Community organizations and unions are calling on the provincial government to speed up pay equity adjustments for home support workers.

“We just can’t continue working at such low wages,” says Thérèse Duguay, Home Support Worker and President of CUPE local 4598. “We have put a lot of hope in the government pay equity process. We have demonstrated that our services are complex and critical to the well-being of senior citizens.  We carry a great deal of responsibility. Our pay should reflect that reality and the sooner the better.”

Vallie Stearns, Chair of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity, agrees. She wants the government to respect its commitment to pay the full fifth of their pay equity adjustments for 2012-2013 i.e. $0.43/hour, and another fifth for 2013-2014 during the current fiscal year. She also urges the government to pay the remaining payments in the next budget. “The government calculated the $2.15 pay equity adjustments based on male wages for 2010. We are at the end of 2013. Home support workers don’t deserve pay equity later – they deserve pay equity now.”

According to Raymond Dionne, Treasurer of the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation, low wages for home support workers affect senior citizens. “Senior citizens prefer staying at home but they need reliable services. Right now, low wages result in high staff turnover. So at a time when they are more vulnerable and need stability, some senior citizens are constantly adjusting to new people coming to their homes.”

According to Cecile Cassista, Executive Director of the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, the government’s provincial health plan is not going to work without pay equity. “The government’s plan relies on home support services. It knows that home support work is the way of the future. So it must invest in the system and in workers now. Paying the full pay equity adjustments in the next budget is the right thing to do.”  

Vallie Stearns concludes: “Home support services are almost totally provided by women. This work used to fall almost exclusively on families, and more specifically on women in the family. It was provided for free and its value was not always recognized. Now we have to evaluate the level of responsibility, competence, working conditions and the effort required to do this work. We should pay it fairly so that senior citizens and their families feel supported. We also have to stop thinking that men are the main breadwinners. Women need their wages just like men. They need pay equity: equal pay for work of equal value.”

Other organizations give their support: the Association francophone des aînés du Nouveau-Brunswick, the Common Front for Social Justice, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour and the Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick.

WHAT THE STAKEHOLDERS WANT

 

During the current fiscal year (2013-2014):

§       That the government pays the full 2012-2013 retroactive pay equity adjustments by Christmas. This represents one-fifth of the total pay equity adjustment as calculated by the government’s pay equity program, and was promised in 2012. 

§       That it begins the 2013-2014 adjustments now.

 

Next fiscal year (2014-2015):

§       That the government pays the remaining pay equity adjustments so that the pay of home support workers reaches $13.15 / hour.  This takes into account that pay equity adjustments are based on 2010 male wages with no indexation for inflation.

 

WHAT IS PAY EQUITY?

 Pay equity is equal pay for work of equal value. The goal is to ensure that female dominated jobs are paid according to their value relative to that of male dominated jobs. 

A LITTLE HISTORY

Four groups of workers offering government-mandated services outside of the public sector have gone through pay equity programs under the government’s initiative: home support, community residence, child care and transition house workers. The Pay Equity Act, 2009 does not apply to these groups since the Act applies only to the public sector.

Results for home support workers were released in 2012. When she presented her budget estimates on May 2012, Ms Margaret Ann Blaney, then the Minister responsible for Women's Issues, said that the adjustments would be addressed over a five-year period: “Basically, it is one-fifth each year." 

 SOME FACTS

§       There are approximately 3250 home support workers in NB.

§       Wages before pay equity adjustments: $11/hour

§       Wages based on the government’s pay equity process: $13.15/hour

§       Pay equity adjustments: $2.15/hour

§       The government’s commitment: to spread the $2.15 adjustments equally over 5 years, starting in 2012-2013, which would come to $0.43/hour for each of the 5 years.

§       The government’s adjustments in 2012-2013 (paid retroactively in July 2013): $0.37/hour

§       Amount missing in home support workers 2012-2013 adjustments: $0.06/hour

§       2013-2014 payments until now: $0.

 

 

 

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