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ADAPT Centres Human Service Workers

2009-11-23

Approximately forty human services workers from ADAPT centres took a closer look at pay equity during a work meeting, last November 20, in Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska. And they had a lot to say!
 
“Our sector is grossly underpaid,” notes Suzanne Martin, spokesperson for the Association régionale de vie active du Nord-Ouest (ARVANO), which promotes networking and training among human service counsellors working in the region’s ADAPT programs.
 
ADAPT Centres – adult development activities, programs and training – were formerly known as sheltered workshops. They offer learning and development opportunities to individuals with special needs and help them achieve their full potential.
 
“A college degree is required, to better meet disabled persons’ support and developmental needs; our work requires high and constant attention levels,” explains Suzanne Martin. “We even spend our lunch and breaks with our participants, as we must ensure constant supervision.”
 
 “Human service counselling is a very rewarding profession, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to make this career choice, knowing the current wage conditions – they are far below standard, for the responsibilities we face!”, points out a work session participant.
 
“ADAPT centres have been playing an important role since the deinstitutionalization movement of the 70s, but human service workers’ work is clearly underpaid”, explains Johanne Perron, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity.
 
These predominantly female jobs are paid less than $13 an hour, sometimes little more than minimum wage. Several employees haven’t had a wage increase in years. Some have even seen their wages cut back. “The time has come for the government to assess human service workers’ work in terms of pay equity and to ensure they receive adequate pay for their work”, continues Johanne Perron.
 
The situation is worrisome not only for workers, but for directors as well. It is increasingly difficult for ADAPT centres to recruit qualified workers and turnover rates are very high, due to the low wages offered, despite job requirements. The salaries and benefits these centres offer cannot compete with those offered by the public sector.
 
Consequently, several directors and organizations in northwestern New Brunswick have formed a Human Resources Committee in the hope of improving the situation. However, funding for ADAPT centres largely depends on government subsidies and these are simply insufficient.
 
“This is another group that provides contracted services to the government and the latter is therefore accountable to these employees”, concludes Johanne Perron.
 
She also points out that the Liberal Party has committed, in its Pact for Change, to be a model by conducting job evaluations for workers providing contracted services to government. A pay equity program has in fact already been initiated with five community groups who should receive wage adjustments as of 2010: daycare workers, home support workers, nursing home workers, transition house workers and community residence workers.
 
During their work session, ARVANO members invited to attend a presentation of the Moncton Sable play “On travaille pas pour des pinottes” (We don’t work for peanuts!), followed by a formal presentation by the director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity and a discussion period. 

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