(ST. THOMAS) Workers at Rehab Express in St. Thomas have voted 90 per cent in favour of a strike and filed for conciliation on Monday February 9. Their collective agreement expired in August of 2012.
Rehab Express, a subsidiary of Closing the Gap Healthcare Inc., receives funding through the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care as contracts from the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).
Workers have not received any wage increases in more than five years, in spite of increases to their workloads. Negotiations for a new contract came to a halt after the employer refused to offer any improvements to wages, and insisted on decreases to existing benefit coverage.
“This agency is a prime example of what has happened to health and long-term care services that were divested and made private. Low wages and part-time jobs have lead to chronic high turnover that interrupts continuity of care,” said OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Rehab Express staff are licensed health care professionals. They are occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians and social workers.
These workers are paid by the visit. By the time they calculate time spent travelling to and from a client’s home, and time spent with the patient delivering the service – which may include assessment, treatment and counselling and doing the necessary paperwork associated with the visit – they are earning as little as $15 an hour
Connie Clerici is the owner of Rehab Express and the President and CEO of Closing the Gap Healthcare Group. The union believes that Clerici receives substantial earnings from her business interests in the health care field across the province, and is deliberately concealing her corporate finances at Rehab Express to justify underpaying employees.
“This is a matter of respecting the people who work for you, valuing their work, and ensuring the best possible services are delivered to the public. The moment you put profit first, you are sacrificing services,” said Thomas.
Workers at Rehab Express deliver paramedical services to patients at home and in long term care homes as well as students at public schools. They deliver services throughout Elgin County.