April 5, 2019 7:41 pm

N.B. government introduces wage increases for home-care workers

The Higgs government announced a major cash injection in the home-care sector for wage increases, with those increases comes the cancellation of a program put in place by the previous liberal government. Morganne Campbell explains.

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The Higgs government is introducing wage increases that are aimed at recruiting and retaining workers who provide support to some of New Brunswick’s most vulnerable, seniors, and those who cannot care for themselves.

As of May 1, the province will inject $16.1 million into wage increases for home support workers, family support workers and attendant care workers.

These employees help residents live at home, independently, for as long as possible.

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“We know how important the work done by these individuals is to their clients and their families,” said Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard. “By increasing wages, we are helping the sector to recruit and retain staff and better reflect the work they do to care for those in need of their services.”

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Part of the funding, which was announced in last month’s budget, will come from discontinuing the primary informal caregiver program.

“This benefit was only targeted to those who are disabled and on social assistance so it left out a big sector of the population and there was no accountability for the money so we weren’t able to measure how it was doing,” explained Shepard during a media breifing in Saint John.

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About 10,000 workers will receive wage increases ranging from 50 cents to $2 per hour.

“Wage investments such as these are a critical step forward in helping to ensure sustainability of services in our sector,” said Jan Seely, chair of the Human Services Coalition of New Brunswick. “We’re starting to see this trend now where the province has invested in these wages, so I’m optimistic.”

It’s been hard to retain workers in youth group homes. In 2018, agencies say they experienced the worst year they’ve ever seen when it came to recruitment and retention.

“Today’s announcement is really going to move the needle in terms of us being able to retain the expertise we need in order to provide the solutions necessary for young people in our care,” explained Mel Kennah, the executive director of Moncton based organization, Youth Jeunesse Inc.

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Meantime the province says it remains at the bargaining table with CUPE and the provinces nursing home workers who’ve been without contracts since October of 2016.

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