The COVID-19 crisis is bringing national attention to the low pay of workers in the caregiving sector, most of them women. In New Brunswick, the Coalition for Pay Equity is calling on the government to significantly improve wages and ensure pay equity across the sector.
Caregiving services include: special care homes, community residences, home support services, family support services, transition houses, and Adult Developmental Activities, Programs and Training (ADAPT) agencies.
Frances LeBlanc, the Coalition chair, points out that the pandemic worsens an existing crisis in the sector where workers have been undervalued for years. She calls the sector “fragile” because of its “frankly unattractive wages leading to low recruitment and retention levels.”
The wages for workers providing care to children, seniors, people living with a disability, and women fleeing violence range between $14 to $16 an hour. Many earn less than the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and have noted that staying home would be safer and less expensive than going to work.
At the Sussex Vale Transition House, Carrie Randall, a crisis intervenor says: “The stress factor looms over the employees and their families, and at a time like this, we realize how little we are valued. Yet, we need to know that we matter. Crisis intervenors do not receive proper wages for the efforts we put forward in our job.”
Sylvie Bertrand is a home care worker. While the government is urging people to stay home, Bertrand leaves home to take care of others in their home. “I have been working for 45 years with dedication and passion. How is it that we are only paid $14.80 an hour to care for these seniors in their homes?” she asks.
According to the Coalition, improvements are needed to not only to wages but also benefits and working conditions, including paid sick leave, more stable working schedules, a greater staffing ratio, and—during times of crisis—better access to personal protective equipment.
Last month in Moncton, hundreds of people demonstrated on International Women’s Day to call on the provincial government and all MLAs to quickly adopt legislation on pay equity for the private sector. Several days later, the Higgs PC government released the provincial budget, which the Coalition said was an effort to improve wages “but still a long way from pay equity.”
In a recent story in the NB Media Co-op, the Coalition executive director Johanne Perron highlighted how many of the workers in the caregiving sector are women. “These are some of the forgotten workers we’re heavily relying on in the midst of COVID-19. They hold female-dominated jobs and their experience of the pandemic is grounded in gender inequalities,” Perron wrote. “Time to care for these important workers as they care for us throughout this crisis.”
The NB Media Co-op, the Coalition for Pay Equity and CUPE NB are co-hosting a panel webinar event this afternoon starting at 1:30pm: “Nursing Homes in the Time of COVID and Why Unions Matter.” Panelists:
- Sharon Teare, president of CUPE’s New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, on conditions faced by New Brunswick’s nursing home workers, their demands, and what has changed with COVID-19.
- Simon Ouellette, communications officer for CUPE NB, on why workers need unions and what unions have done to unite workers ill-served by austerity politics.
- Johanne Perron, executive director of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity, on the coalition’s strategies for pay equity for workers in the caregiving sector.
By Zoom. To register for the event and receive the Zoom link, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/235055417740127/