Manitoba offers temporary $5/hour pay bump to staff helping vulnerable people

Caregivers who provide direct or residential care to vulnerable Manitobans during the pandemic are being thanked with a pay bump.

The province will provide $5 per hour wage increase to eligible staff, including health-care aides, housekeeping staff, direct service workers and recreation workers, for a period of two months, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced at a briefing Friday.

“This is really targeted at those lower-income folks that are working … frankly, as heroes within our system right now,” Stefanson said.

The $35-million caregiver wage support program will also support workplaces that are low on staff due to positive cases of COVID-19, she said.

Individuals at personal care homes or in disability services, child welfare services, homeless and family violence prevention shelters or long-term care facilities are eligible for the top-up. To qualify, workers must earn less than $25 an hour.

It’s expected as many as 20,000 workers can benefit.

Saluting front-line workers

“It recognizes the dedication and heroism of our front-line workers who are serving vulnerable Manitobans each and every day,” Stefanson said.

The program is partly funded by a $17-million commitment from the federal government. Ottawa’s contribution was part of money originally set aside for wage subsidies, an official said.

The top-up is based on the number of hours an employee works from Nov. 1 to Jan. 10. Regular and overtime hours are accepted. There is no limit to the amount of hours an eligible employee could apply for the wage bump.

Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stefanson announces a two-month wage subsidy for front-line care providers. It’s expected that 20,000 Manitobans will be eligible. (John Einarson/CBC)

Applications will be accepted twice. The first intake period will close on Dec. 14 and the money will be paid directly to workers that week, the province said. Applications will also be received in the second week of January. 

A full-time worker could receive an extra $1,800, the province said.

Shannon McAteer, health care co-ordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba, said the extra $5 an hour will supplement the incomes of people who need it.

“This also highlights the fact that this this category, this sector … is definitely underpaid,” McAteer said, and that was the case even before the pandemic. The pay scale in some positions doesn’t go much higher than minimum wage, she said.

Some workers in this sector only have a few days of sick pay, said McAteer. She’d like to see additional funding for support workers who get sick with COVID-19 or must isolate.

Meanwhile, Stefanson described the wage subsidy announcement Friday as a first step toward helping employees already working in the sector. 

She didn’t say, however, how facilities are coping with limited staffing. Stefanson said 16 Community Living disABILITY Services agencies have reported positive COVID-19 cases among participants or staff.

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