OTTAWA – There is a network of nurses and personal support workers doing hundreds of in-home healthcare visits to seniors across eastern Ontario every day. It appears seamless, except the infrastructure behind that network – the 70 health administrators who schedule visits, book appointments, manage sick calls and more – is cracking.

Those health administrators, members of CUPE 4999, have been working without a contract for more than two years. In that time, burnout has grown while morale and service levels have plummeted. In the hopes of securing a fair deal to address their urgent needs, workers delivered a supermajority open letter to the Board of Directors signed by more than 80 per cent of CUPE 4999 members.

“On paper our job is just managing schedules, but the reality is it’s so much more than that. When a nurse or PSW calls in sick, we scramble to adjust appointments so dozens of people who are sick or dying get the care they need and that seniors aren’t left languishing in bed all day without a bath or exercise. This is people’s health and well-being. We carry that stress on our shoulders,” said Vanora Schoenwald, a nursing coordinator for seven years and President of CUPE 4999. “We’re so short staffed that we’re regularly covering two or even three desks, meaning we’re scheduling hundreds of patients a day, all while managing incoming sick calls and responding to emails. We’re good coordinators but we’re not magicians.”

Health administrator’s starting salaries at Carefor are only $19 an hour and workers top out at $25 an hour. Their counterparts at hospitals, meanwhile, begin at $27 an hour, a discrepancy driving the endemic worker shortage at Carefor and pushing those who do stay to rely on food banks or delay paying bills. Further fueling worker frustration with wages is the eye-watering $75,000 raise Carefor CEO Steve Perry received from 2020-2022, bringing his salary to more than $300,000.

Workers hopes of quickly reaching a fair contract were dashed last week when, after abruptly cancelling their first day of bargaining, Carefor’s legal team demanded unfair concessions, including stripping away vacation rights and removing workers from the bargaining unit.

In May of last year, in a nod to growing morale challenges, human resources organized a listening session with workers. The feedback was stark.

“I am incredibly proud of the bravery workers showed. They stood up and told HR that they used to love their jobs, but they can’t go on, that they’re being pushed into poverty despite working in healthcare, and that their mental health is suffering. HR said they’d talk to leadership, but nothing was done,” said Schoenwald. “They didn’t hear us then and they are still ignoring us. What is it going to take to make them understand worker’s needs and to ensure people in eastern Ontario get the care they deserve?”


For more information, contact:

Jesse Mintz, CUPE Communications Representative

416 704 9642

[email protected]