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Pay equity report wanted for and by community residence workers

2013-12-11

Workers, residential agencies and the NB Coalition for Pay Equity are asking the government to release the report on the pay equity results for the community residence sector before Christmas. The government initiated a pay equity program for this sector in 2009.

Community residences provide care and supervision to adults with disabilities in need of special assistance and to children and youth under government care. Residents may live with mental illnesses, or with mental and physical disabilities such as developmental delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, Down's syndrome, etc.

 “This work is complex and demanding. But it pays so little that many of us hold two or even three jobs to make ends meet,” says Danielle Scott, herself a Community Residence Worker and spokesperson for CUPE’s New Brunswick Council of Group Home Unions.

Danielle Scott says that regular employees can earn as little as $12.51/hour while casual and part time employees earn even less.

“Many of us obtained college degrees to do this work. As community residence workers, our responsibility is to care for residents who require twenty-four hour supervision in a group home setting and to foster their development whether they are children, youth or adults. We have to be attentive to their needs and ensure their safety,” explains Danielle Scott. “On a daily basis, we first and foremost maintain structure within the home. We are also responsible of personal care routines (bathing, changing, lifts, transfers, feedings, etc.) cooking, cleaning, laundry, dispensing medications, documenting, outings. Through it all, we try to find the time to do things the residents enjoy such as card games, walks, movies, etc. We also have to be prepared to deal with difficult behaviours such as physical and verbal abuse when they occur.”

Giselle Pitts, mother of a 44 year old man who has cerebral palsy, appreciates the services provided by the community residence workers who take care of him. “It is demanding work but it is so important to us. Everyone wants to feel confident that members of their families are well taken care of. The sad thing is that low wages lead to a high staff turnover. We can see that it affects the residents.” Ms Pitts reached out for community residence services for her son in 1993, four years after her husband died. Without her husband’s support, her son’s care had become too difficult for her. However she remained involved in his life and sits on his residence board as well as on the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s.

“Our employees deserve pay equity,” adds David Black, Past President of the N.B. Association of Residential Agencies Inc. and current Executive Director of Independence Plus Inc., in Saint John. “Our agencies provide important services to New Brunswick families. These services are funded by the government. However the level of funding we receive does not allow us to pay wages that adequately reflect the complexity of the work performed by our employees. As a result, we face staff recruitment issues and high turnover. It is not good for the people in our care, not good for our employees, and not good for the agencies.”

Workers from three other sectors participated in a pay equity program and received their reports in June 2012 (child care, home support and transition house workers). However, community residence workers are still waiting for theirs. Yet, in May 2012, Margaret-Ann Blaney then Minister responsible for Women’s Issues said that the community residence results should be out “in plenty of time for any wage adjustments that may have to be made as of April 1 of the next fiscal year[1]." She was talking about April 1, 2013.

Vallie Stearns, Chair of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity, says her organization is completely behind the workers. “We appreciate the government’s commitment to make payments retroactive to April 1, 2013. Yet this much delay is difficult to bear for the workers. They need to know what to expect in order to plan and make financial decisions for their future and their families. It is time for the government to release its report.”

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Information:

Johanne Perron, Executive Director, NB Coalition for Pay Equity

(506) 855-0002 (b); (506) 850-6963 (c)

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 community residence workers were expected in 2012-2013. When she presented her budget estimates on May 11, 2012, Margaret-Ann Blaney, then the Minister responsible for Women's Issues, said: "The evaluation has pretty much been done. The point we are at right now involves the weighting and the points being assigned. The committee is still working away at that. We anticipate that this process will be done by the end of the summer and that everything will be complete in plenty of time for any wage adjustments that may have to be made as of April 1 of the next fiscal year." 

 SOME FACTS[2]

§       There are approximately 1200 community residence workers in NB.

§       Community Residences are approved under the Family Services Act to provide care and supervisions to adults with disabilities in need of special assistance and to children/youth under the care of the Social Development Minister.

§       There are 72 Community Residences with approximately 470 long term care clients living in these facilities across the province. There are an estimated 700 employees providing care to residents in these facilities.

§       There are 39 child care residential centers, open custody homes and child placement facilities with approximately 178 beds serving up to 6 children/youth per center. There are an estimated 500 employees providing care to residents in these facilities across the province.

 



[1] May 11, 2013. New Brunswick Government. Hansard, p. 48

[2] New Brunswick Government. “Pay Equity for Direct Caregivers in Community Residences.” http://www.gnb.ca/0012/Womens-Issues/wg-es/pe/communityres-e.asp (page consulted on December 9, 2013).

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