Can't compete with McDonald's for home-care workers, employers say
Newfoundland and Labrador home-care workers can do something simple to earn more than the wages that industry leaders call an embarrassment: flip hamburgers.
Home-care workers paid by the provincial government earn only $9.66 an hour — without benefits, and despite years of experience.
An informal review by CBC News found that the salaries for the workers, some of whom are responsible for keeping their clients alive by tending to daily needs, pale compared to unskilled jobs.
For instance, some workers at St. John's-area McDonald's restaurants — which have been recruiting heavily and have been promoting a roster of benefits to lure people to fill staffing shortages — earn more than $10 per hour.
Entry-level security guards make $9.50 per hour, while call-centre employees start at $9.25.
"It is really time — it's completely time — for an overhaul of the home-care system," said Anne Whelan, who manages Caregivers, a home-care agency in the St. John's area.Agency owner Anne Whelan said it's time to overhaul the system. (CBC)
While Whelan is responsible for recruiting staff, her pay rates are dictated by what the Newfoundland and Labrador government is prepared to spend.
"What would be a reasonable wage for a skilled home support worker doing the scope of work that we regularly get asked to do? It would be much more comparable to a [personal care attendant] in a hospital, $14 or $15 an hour," she told CBC News.
Home-care agencies continually lose workers, who often can earn better pay — for work that is much less stressful — at fast food outlets, call centres and other businesses.
The provincial government increased spending in this spring's budget, but advocates say it has done little address a growing need.
Price to be paid?
Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Private Employees, said unless there are substantial changes, a higher price will have to be paid than higher wages.
"We have a very serious concern that because of the low compensation package they're going to find that there's not going to be anyone to do those jobs," said Furlong, adding she is also concerned that most home-care workers are women.
"We shudder to think that it is because of the gender issue that the wages are so low, but that is the reality of the situation, as far as we're concerned," Furlong said in an interview.
Health Minister Ross Wiseman has said a review of the home-care system should be released this fall.
That surprised Whelan, who said providers "really need to be consulted" before any decisions are made.
Maybe it's time for someone such as NAPE to organize a province wide walkout of Home Care workers or a large demonstration?