Personal Support Workers launch province-wide strike against Red Cross Care Partners; SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart wants justice for PSWs

TORONTO, Dec. 10, 2013 /CNW/ - Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, has given notice to Red Cross Care Partners that Personal Support Workers across Ontario will walk off the job tomorrow, December 11th.

The workers have been in a legal strike position for several weeks and recently voted to reject a tentative agreement with the largest homecare agency in Ontario, a for-profit company. They have been working without a contract since April.

"These workers are tired of being pushed around and taken for granted," said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. "They are paid poverty-level wages of $15 an hour and are expected to pay for gas out of pocket when they drive long distances to make home visits."

In the last two years PSW earnings have been reduced by about 7% as a result of a wage freeze combined with inflation and a massive increase in the price of gas.

Ms. Stewart said the government of Ontario has been warned that its homecare system is falling apart as agencies misuse public funds and exploit the workforce.

"We estimate 50 cents of every dollar given to Red Cross ($143 million this year) is skimmed off for bureaucracy, excessive executive pay and profit. Where is the accountability in this system for delivering quality care to seniors and vulnerable clients?"

Last year the CEO of the Red Cross Society was given a 9% pay increase, bringing his salary to $297 thousand, which is 11 times the average salary of a PSW.

About 4,500 PSWs will be on strike. "We take this action with a heavy heart," said Ms. Stewart. "Nobody wants to be on strike in this economy and at this time of year, but the fight for justice doesn't always fit into a neat calendar. Our members are determined to take a stand."

Day one of the strike, Wednesday, will include a noon rally at Queens Park of PSWs from the Toronto area who will gather at City Hall and walk up University Ave. to the legislature.

About SEIU Healthcare

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 55,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario. The union's members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province. SEIU Healthcare has a strong track record of improving wages, benefits and working conditions for healthcare workers, supporting the training and development needs of its members, and strengthening standards in the management and delivery of patient and client care. www.seiuhealthcare.ca

SOURCE SEIU Healthcare

For further information:

Gilleen Witkowski SEIU Healthcare 416-805-0305 g.witkowski@seiuhealthcare.ca