Friday, June 12, 2020

We need to address precarious work in long-term care

While the COVID-19 pandemic has upended many of the norms we have operated in for decades, it has also presented us with an opportunity to use this time to reform some outdated and dangerous practices in our workplaces.
Recent research conducted by the Centre for Future Work, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, identified 10 ways in which we must change work for the betterment of all.
To read the report click here.
Among the areas identified is, “Limiting precarious employment practices (which have proven to be a major threat to public health), and providing decent protections and supports to workers in insecure work arrangements.”
A prime example of this is in long-term care homes. Many caregivers have jobs at multiple homes in order to get close to or have full-time hours.
The study found:
While these problems have been festering in Canada’s labour market for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a new and urgent light on them. Most immediately, it became quickly apparent that precarious work practices were contributing to the community spread of disease. In long-term care facilities, for example, widespread practices of multiple job-holding and agency staffing systems were directly transmitting the coronavirus between different facilities.
So while this type of work can be dangerous to seniors in these facilities as well as caregivers who work there, the study also found those in precarious work were more likely to be adversely affected by the pandemic and economic slowdown which accompanied it.
Across every dimension of job quality, the incidence of job loss was far worse for workers in less secure, less protected, and lower-wage positions. The pandemic, and accompanying economic crisis, will thus have a terrible polarizing impact on a labour market that was already marked by dramatic and growing inequality.
The study calls on government to make changes to curtail precarious work, allowing for more stable jobs for those currently in these difficult situations.
In sum, the pandemic and its after-effects should constitute a clarion call for the rules of the labour market to be fundamentally changed: to restrain the growth of precarious work, to convert insecure jobs into better jobs, to reform income security and insurance programs so that all workers are protected by them (including those in non-standard arrangements), and to extend minimum labour standards to all jobs (again, including contractor positions, agency and temporary work, and gigs). Precarious work is now an omnipresent feature of Canada’s labour market. It can’t be eliminated. But it can be regulated and curtailed. And those performing it are surely entitled to a higher standard of respect, protection and compensation.
The New Brunswick Union (NBU), which represents workers in several long-term care homes, is calling on the provincial government to put an end to the practice of people working at multiple long-term care facilities in order to gather enough hours to support themselves and their families.
In addition, we need to ensure the affected workers are given the equivalent hours they were working in several homes at one specific facility. Put more simply, if you were working 40 hours a week in two different long-term care facilities, you need to be guaranteed 40 hours in one specific home.
This will increase safety in long-term care homes, provide more stable jobs for workers and help a sector which is primarily made up of women and persons of colour.
We need our MLAs from all political parties to come together and recognize this as not only the best practice for seniors, but for our economic recovery as well.