February 21, 2024
Rallying at the Perley gates: health care staff demand better working and living conditions at residential care facility

OTTAWA – Health care workers represented by CUPE 870 rallied outside the Perley and Rideau Veteran’s Health Centre today, demanding their employer improve compensation and working conditions to enable better care for residents.

The union represents about 675 workers at Perley Health, including registered practical nurses, personal support workers, housekeepers, dietary aides, occupational therapist assistants, physiotherapist assistants, maintenance workers, and laundry aides.

Patty Lowe, a personal support worker and president of CUPE 870, said financial precarity and stressful working conditions have left staff demoralized and burnt out.

“Perley Health must negotiate a fair contract to retain staff. That would help stabilize staffing levels, enabling us to provide better quality care,” she said. “As workers we try our best every day, but it’s impossible to keep up with workloads when the employer doesn’t have enough staff. It’s not fair to us as workers, and it’s certainly not fair for residents with complex needs.”

Lowe explained that PSWs typically have less than 10 minutes to help elderly residents get up from bed, assist them in using the washroom, and get dressed for breakfast. She said the nurses are also stretched thin, with one nurse being responsible for up to 40 residents during periods of short staffing.

In a recent CUPE survey, 84 per cent of workers say they are not staffed well enough to provide good quality care to residents. The staffing crunch is getting worse as workers are leaving for employers with better compensation and working conditions.

In ongoing bargaining, CUPE 870 is calling on Perley Health to sign onto the same provisions that other health care employers have agreed to for over 40,000 staff across Ontario. That includes cumulative wage increases of 8.25 per cent over two years and improvements in benefits. According to the union, Perley Health could have signed the contract months ago.

“Staff are leaving to work at other Ottawa hospitals and long-term care facilities where the wages are higher. Much as the staff love the residents, the surge of inflation in 2022 and 2023 cut our members’ real incomes substantially and has left people who are struggling financially with few options” said Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU-CUPE), which represents nearly 50,000 hospital and long-term care workers across Ontario.

He cautioned that a further delay would only intensify the shortage of workers and negatively affect care standards.

“Workers are leaving because in the Ottawa labour market most employers are paying more, it’s that simple. It’s time for Perley Health to complete the bargaining with its staff and the impact of that, on stability of staffing, would have a very positive impact on resident care.”

For more information, contact:

Zaid Noorsumar

CUPE Communications