Thousands left out in $5/hour pay bump for caregivers: union, opposition MLAs

Thousands of caregivers on the front lines of Manitoba’s pandemic response aren’t being treated fairly after being declared ineligible for a temporary $5 per hour pay bump from the provincial government, a union leader and the Official Opposition say.

Health-care aides working at hospitals, along with home-care staff and dietary workers, are among the employees left out in the increase, the Opposition NDP and Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“They’re [not being] recognized and they’re being tossed aside,” CUPE Local 204 president Debbie Boissonneault said. 

The province recently unveiled the two-month wage supplement for caregivers who provide direct or residential care to vulnerable Manitobans during the pandemic.

Staff eligible for the $35-million caregiver wage support top-up include health-care aides at personal care homes, housekeeping staff, direct service workers and recreation workers.

Boissonneault said the program is helpful, but it’s creating a divide between staff eligible for the pay bump, and those who aren’t. 

“I can tell you, every day my phone is ringing off the hook … [with people] saying, ‘Why am I not being treated the same?'”

She points to health-care aides at intensive care units “working with people that are dying daily, and are not receiving this pay.”

“Why are they being treated differently?”

Nahanni Fontaine, the NDP MLA for St. Johns, co-wrote a letter, asking the government to reconsider the caregiver support benefit to include more workers.

“We want folks that are on the front lines of this issue, that are working on behalf of all of us and putting their lives at risk day in and day out, all to get the $5 wage boost,” she said.

The province estimates 20,000 workers are eligible for the increase under the existing parameters.

Workers at personal care homes or in disability services, child welfare services, homeless and family violence prevention shelters or long-term care facilities can apply. To qualify, workers must earn less than $25 an hour.

A full-time worker could receive an extra $1,800, the province estimates.