Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised Monday to maintain a wage increase brought in for personal support workers during the pandemic but didn’t say how or when his government would back up the pledge.
The workers who staff long-term care homes and similar facilities were given a temporary $3 per hour wage bump in October, which was later extended until late August.
Ford said his government would keep that increase in place.
“I’ve always said, folks, (personal support workers) are overworked, underpaid, and they deserve every single penny, times 10. So we’re going to keep that in place, the $3 an hour pay for them,” Ford said during an announcement on long-term care development in North Bay, Ont.
“It’s a guarantee. We’re going to do it.”
Ford’s office provided no further details on the premier’s commitment.
The pandemic pay bump for personal support workers has affected more than 158,000 workers in home care, long-term care, public hospitals and social services.
Ontario’s long-term care homes were devastated during the pandemic. The province reported 3,796 COVID-related resident deaths and 13 staff deaths in the homes as of Monday and thousands more infections.
The Progressive Conservative government has committed billions of dollars to improve conditions in the sector by creating more beds, upgrading old facilities and hiring staff. This year’s budget committed to hire at least 27,000 long-term care staff over four years.
“Folks, if you’re out there, and you’re interested in a great career and a very giving career, please join up to one of the programs and become a PSW,” Ford said on Monday.
The hiring plans are part of the province’s goal to provide an average of four hours of direct care to each long-term care resident by 2025.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath criticized that timeline as too slow on Monday. She called for permanent wage and benefit improvements for personal support workers and aggressive recruitment efforts to ensure four hours of direct care by the end of this year.
“Our precious parents and grandparents can’t wait for better, safer care,” Horwath said in a statement.
Liberal health critic John Fraser called Ford’s Monday comments “definitely not confidence inspiring” after several extensions of the temporary wage increase.
“(Personal support workers) need a commitment not more empty words,” Fraser wrote on Twitter. “It’s time today to make the PSW raise permanent.”