HAMILTON, ON, March 27, 2012 /CNW/ - The management of St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton is set to lockout its frontline home care workers if they don't knuckle under and accept a $3-dollar-an-hour pay cut by a deadline of midnight on Wednesday.
The lockout will be in effect from 12.01am on Thursday if the staff do not voluntarily accept a 15 percent drop in wages, according to St. Joseph's CEO Kevin Smith, who pockets almost $725,000 a year in salary and bonuses.
Such deep cuts would not only drive the over-stretched frontline staff into poverty, it would put in jeopardy the high-quality professional and personalized care St. Joseph's patients and home care clients have come to rely on.
Cathy McEwan, a full-time Personal Support Worker with St. Joseph's, said: "We're working on people, not machines. This is not right."
Sharleen Stewart, President of Service Employees International Local 1 Canada, said management's hardball tactics were rare in a sector dominated by women who provide care to the sick and elderly.
"We have not seen this kind of hyper-aggressive use of ultimatums, midnight deadlines, lockouts, and replacement workers in public healthcare in recent memory," said the union president who represents more than 50,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario.
"We will not be intimidated. This is not fair or reasonable," Stewart said.
St. Joseph's management is demanding these deep cuts while the CEO enjoys a taxpayer-funded $1000-a-month luxury car allowance to maintain his Mercedes SUV. Meanwhile, a thick layer of executives also siphon off nearly half-a-million-dollars each from the health budget, like St. Joseph's President David Higgins, who pocketed $476,687.78 in salary and benefits, according to the provinces "sunshine list" of public servants who make over $100,000, released last week.
In contrast, the average home care worker at St. Joseph's makes around $17,000 per year. Yet executives who earn 41 times more than these over-stretched frontline staff are insisting they take a voluntary pay cut from about $17-an-hour to about $14-an-hour.
St. Joseph's is demanding these deep cuts to wages, they say, because they are expecting a resumption of competitive bidding in the home care sector this spring.
But auctioning off the sick and elderly to the lowest bidder is wrong, and leads to a race to the bottom, said McEwan.
"Do you think professionals who have gone to school for training want to work for the same wages they can get at McDonald's? They will just go elsewhere, staffing shortages will worsen, and quality will drop."
SEIU Local 1 Canada is part of the fastest-growing union in Canada and represents more than 50,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario.
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