Pinecrest workers picket for sick days

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Pinecrest workers picket for sick days
Pinecrest picket

More than a dozen employees of the facility carried union flags and signs expressing their dissatisfaction with Southbridge Care Homes, the Cambridge, Ontario-based company offering “acquisition, management and redevelopment services” to retirement homes, and which owns three dozen long-term care and retirement homes across Ontario.

Personal service workers (PSW) at the facility, represented by the United Steelworkers union (USW), are looking to push back against Southbridge’s demands to reduce workers sick pay and the number of hours they can bank for sick days.

“They brought these demands to the table on the first day,” said Ryan Leblanc, the USW representative at the event. “We just want a fair negotiation.”

Sylvie Tremblay has worked at Pinecrest for 18 years. In her experience, Southbridge has never entered into negotiations in good faith or are willing to work with their employees.

“We never see them,” said Tremblay. “It’s always through their lawyers or some other company.”

Southbridge Care Homes sub-contract daily operations of its facilities to Extendicare, a long-term care facility management company based out of Toronto.

In a prepared statement, USW’s Ontario director Myles Sullivan stated that “long-term care workers confronted some of the most demanding and risky working conditions of any group throughout the pandemic.” Sullivan also noted the USW believes its workers in healthcare are underpaid and over worked.

“Unfortunately, the profit-driven operators of the Pinecrest Nursing Home are among the very few who think otherwise,” stated Sullivan. “These people are actually demanding concessions to worsen their employees’ working conditions.”

Pinecrest Nursing Home was hit hard by COVID-19. During the early days of the pandemic, the facility had already recorded 10 deaths by May 2020, accounting for all the COVID-19 related deaths in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s region at the time.

Southbridge Care Homes did not respond to phone calls or emails in time for publishing. The USW and Southbridge resumed negotiations on October 19.

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