Local healthcare workers are still waiting for the province to fulfill its promises of more pay to recognize their efforts during the pandemic.
The province promised a $4 per hour topup for workers in the health care sector at the end of April, retroactively from April 24 up until Aug. 13. Funding was supposed to roll out to employers starting June 15 in long-term care, with other care sectors coming throughout last month.
But the pay has yet to be seen anywhere, according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents workers at Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS). SEIU head of strategic communications Corey Johnson said the province has delayed, frustrating workers.
“They’re not in it for the money, they’re in it because they love helping people,” Johnson said. “They feel very slighted … It was more of a respect and recognition thing instead of a motivation to keep working, but it has almost done the opposite. It’s driven the morale down.”
The pay applies to a wide range of workers, including nurses, personal support, auxiliary staff, mental health and addictions. Non-management in long-term care homes and retirement homes are also eligible, as are the social services and corrections sectors.
But Johnson said answers are hard to come by. He said the province had issues determining eligibility early on, expanding it to include paramedics after pressure. The union has called for the payment to include all healthcare workers.
“They seem completely out of the loop and uneducated on what they were doing,” Johnson said. “We were disappointed that frontline workers or their unions like us weren’t consulted to begin with. I think it could have saved a lot of headaches.”
President of the treasury board press secretary Sebastian Skamski said funding has already flowed to employers, including the entirety of the long-term care allotment. He added the program is massive, benefitting 375,000 employees from more than 2,000 employers.
“We are moving funds to employers as quickly as possible and are expediting the work required to get this money into the paycheques of eligible employees across the province,” he said.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services president and CEO Carolyn Plummer said the organization is working to ensure as many staff as possible are eligible for the pay. She said with four sectors of health care at HHHS, the process “has been extensive, but it is well underway.”
“We recognize that the delays with the temporary pandemic pay are frustrating,” Plummer said. “HHHS truly values the extraordinary efforts of its staff, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and wants to ensure it has done everything it can to be consistent and fair with all employees before proceeding.”
Johnson said there is no excuse for the delay. He added employers have delayed because of the government, waiting for the money and direction.
“It’s a simple payroll exercise,” he said. “Don’t make an announcement that you’re not ready to action.”