Ontario significantly boosting pay for 350K healthcare workers due to COVID-19

Chris Herhalt, CP24.com

Published Saturday, April 25, 2020 1:14PM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, April 25, 2020 7:04PM EDT

The Ford government is significantly increasing the wages of most healthcare workers in Ontario for the next four months, saying it is needed to maintain staffing levels in busy long-term care homes and hospitals due to COVID-19.

Dubbing it a “pandemic pay premium,” Premier Doug Ford says nurses, personal support workers, cleaners, correctional service officers and many other classifications of provincial workers will earn $4 more per hour for the next 16 weeks, along with a  $250 lump sum each month for most full-time staff.

“This increase will also help our frontline providers attract the staff that they need,” Ford said.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy says an average worker putting in at least 40 hours per week would earn about $3,560 more over the next four months due to the increase.

Both Bethlenfalvy and Ford alluded to money from the federal government which in part helped them implement the pay hike.

About 350,000 workers in the province will receive the pay hike, Ford said.

Officials say those eligible include all nurses in hospitals and long-term care, workers in most shelters, mental health and addictions workers, some social workers, and all support staff in hospitals, long-term care homes and correctional facilities.

READ MORE: Who is eligible for Ontario’s temporary ‘pandemic payments’?

Many long-term care homes have complained that chronic low pay in the sector has made it hard to attract staff to replace those sick or isolated due to COVID-19 infection.

The Ontario Personal Support Worker Association, which has long lobbied for increased pay for its members, some of whom earn minimum wage, welcomed the announcement.

“The OPSWA would like to thank Premier Ford and Minister Fullerton for recognizing all Personal Support Workers regardless of their place of work, their collective bargaining agents or their employer. The OPSWA and the Personal Support Workers across Ontario realize the value of this recognition and hope it begins a new era for health care in Ontario.”

Ford said that after the pandemic subsides, a new conversation with the federal government must occur about “a sustained commitment on healthcare and long-term care,” regarding funding.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Saturday it was “wrong” that it took so long for Ford to increase workers’ pay.

“It’s wrong that it took so long for this small wage top up to arrive, and I’m asking Doug Ford to make this additional pay retroactive to the day the State of Emergency was declared, so that people‘s sacrifice and hard work to keep us all safe is recognized.”