Sunridge contract goes to binding arbitration

The Sunridge Place labour dispute is heading to arbitration. A strike has been averted, although the year-long struggle to secure a fair collective agreement for health care workers at the Duncan care home continues, according to Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.

On June 10, HEU, which represents 200 care and support workers employed by the facility’s private contractor CareCorp, accepted a labour board mediator’s recommendation to resolve the dispute through a mediation and binding arbitration process. There are problems that need addressing, according to the union.

"Despite many months at the bargaining table, CareCorp has been unwilling to negotiate an agreement that will address the low wage and high staff turnover problem at Sunridge Place," Whiteside said.

"You simply cannot provide the seniors living at Sunridge Place with the continuity and quality of care they deserve, if you don’t maintain a stable, experienced staff team."

Whiteside said HEU is concerned about CareCorp’s unwillingness to look at increasing wages.

The starting wage for a care aide working at Sunridge Place, for example, is currently $17 per hour. But prior to CareCorp acquiring the contract in May, 2014, the starting wage for a care aide was $18.56.

With the drop in wages, Sunridge Place has seen a staff turnover of more than 40 per cent, she said.

"Our members deserve a fair wage that respects their skill, commitment and dedication to the seniors they care for at Sunridge Place," says Whiteside. The union is awaiting the appointment of a Labour Board mediator who will arbitrate a first collective agreement for Sunridge Place workers.