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No end in sight to home-care strike

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

One week into a strike by home-care co-ordinators, there’s no end in sight and both sides are accusing the other of being barriers to negotiations.

The South West Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) gave massive raises to top executive Sandra Coleman — her package shot up from $117,869 in 2006 to about $288,000 — but refuses to give nurses and other care co-ordinators a nudge of just 1.4% a year, said Ariel Beaudoin, spokesperson for the local chapter of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

“It’s really hurtful,” Beaudoin said Thursday. “We’re looking for respect and the recognition we have worked hard.”

The union instead received tough words by an agency that questioned whether nurses who co-ordinate home care deserve as much pay and benefits as nurses who work in hospital.

“We are disappointed that ONA rejected our offers,” Megan Allen-Lamb, the provincial spokesperson for CCACs, wrote in a media release. “It is time for ONA to recognize that we are not the same as hospitals and it is time to come back to the table to bargain.”

The strike began at midnight Jan. 29 when 450 home-care and nursing care co-ordinators — mostly nurses but also social workers and therapists — walked off the job, part of a broader strike of nearly 3,000 people at nine of 14 Ontario CCACs.

But Beaudoin said the agency’s suggestion is false. Pay for care co-ordinators isn’t on par with what hospital nurses get, and the union demand only prevents the gap from widening, she said

Nurses hate being away from helping patients and would be happy to resume talks, Beaudoin said.

“We’re still sitting by the phone.”

She said she’s concerned home-care patients are suffering because managers and others tasked with helping them during the strike are understaffed and prone to mistakes.

“It scares me,” she said.

But the CCAC insists care hasn’t suffered in the community and that there hasn’t been any delays in getting patients out of hospital and into their homes.

“It’s time for ONA to let these employees get back to the work they do so well,” Allen-Lamb wrote.

A few of the care co-ordinators already have, breaking the picket line, Beaudoin said, but as a whole, nurses, social workers and therapists are determined to get a fair deal.

“We’re a very strong group,” she said.

jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/JsheratLFP


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