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Private care home workers call exclusion from B.C. pandemic pay 'extremely unfair'

Last Updated Oct 23, 2020 at 8:03 pm PST

FILE - Health Minister Adrian Dix. (Courtesy B.C. Government, Flickr)
Summary

Workers in care homes without private beds excluded from wage top-up

Care aide worked 28 days straight to serve residents

Up to private employers to increase worker wages: Adrian Dix

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Two health-care workers who served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in a private long-term care home say they’ve been unfairly excluded from a temporary wage top-up given to their counterparts in publicly funded facilities.

A care aide a nurse who both work at a privately owned and operated care home in Port Coquitlam said they worked 12- to 16-hour shifts to care for the home’s 49 residents in the early weeks of the pandemic.

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When a resident caught the coronavirus, the staff followed all the proper protocols around protective gear, isolation and cleaning to stop it from spreading to anyone else, the nurse told NEWS 1130.

“We worked our asses off to contain it to the single case,” he said.

The care aide worked 28 days in a row. She said her conscience wouldn’t allow her to take a day off because, otherwise, “no one will provide care for the residents.”

When the provincial government announced in May that frontline workers, including nurses and care aides, would be receiving a $4-per-hour “pandemic pay” wage top-up for a 16-week period beginning in March, the workers assumed they would be among the recipients.

Privately owned non-profit or for-profit care homes could apply for the pandemic pay for their workers as long as they had some publicly funded beds.

But the Port Coquitlam workers learned recently that they would be excluded because their facility is strictly private, without any provincially funded beds.

“It’s extremely unfair that we actually were staring [COVID-19] in the face and we don’t get the same credit that others get,” the nurse said.

He said the exclusion made public statements of thanks from the government feel “hollow.”

Adrian Dix, the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Kingsway who served as health minister before the election, said his party’s government did a lot to protect workers in both public and private facilities.

He cited an order forcing facilities to restrict workers to working in a single site, a ‘level up’ in care aide pay separate from the pandemic pay, and increased access to personal protective equipment.

Dix said it’s up to private-sector employers to decide whether to top up their workers’ wages.

“You can make an argument for lots of workers who provided absolutely what would be deemed essential services but were not eligible for the public pandemic pay,” he said.

Asked whether pandemic pay might return under a re-elected NDP government as the province enters a second wave, Dix said he didn’t know but it wouldn’t be his first focus.