By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall and area unionized personal support workers (PSWs) walked off the job in a province-wide strike today.
More than 4,500 PSWs across Ontario have rejected a tentative agreement between their union and Red Cross Care Partners.
A group of 30 PSWs chanting with placards in hand walked the picket line in front of the Cornwall branch of the Red Cross office on Montreal Road.
"They have been without a contract for close to a year," said Winsome Smith, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representative.
Smith said many of the PSWs have been working for 30 years and don't even make $15 an hour.
"They only offered us a small raise," said Shelley Black, a PSW from Summerstown. "They forgot we have to survive too."
Chants from the crowd included: ".7 is too cheap. We need a fair raise!" and "Justice for PSWs!"
According to a statement from the Canadian Red Cross, they were notified on Monday about the strike and contingency plans were set in place to ensure minimal disruption for their clients.
"The Canadian Red Cross and Red Cross Care Partners are very concerned with misinformation being disseminated by SEIU Healthcare to the public and to our employees through media and advertising and we feel compelled to set the record straight on several issues," said Tanya Elliott, director of communications for the Red Cross.
In contrast to reports that over the last two years PSW earnings have been reduced by seven per cent as a result of a wage freeze, inflation and rising gas prices, Red Cross had this to say: "Inflation over the past few years has been exceedingly low. In fact, the current inflation rate is below one per cent. Had the most recent tentative agreement been ratified it would have included wage and mileage increases."
Click here to read the full media statement from Red Cross.