Manitoba disabilities workers get pay bump
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This article was published 27/04/2022 (396 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
“Just a paycheque.”
Those three words — spoken by a disabilities service worker — still sting for Jessica Croy, who lives with an intellectual disability and counts on provincial programs for support and assistance.
The remark was just one of the ways Croy said she has been disrespected over the years as a result of staff being underqualified or underpaid.
“This doesn’t feel good, and it makes me feel like less of a person,” said Croy, first-vice president of the advocacy association People First Manitoba. “I can really tell the difference between a staff who is just here for a paycheque and a staff who loves their job.”
On Wednesday, the provincial government said it would spend $10 million to improve wages for people who provide direct services to Manitobans with intellectual disabilities and to recruit and train workers after the COVID-19 pandemic worsened staffing shortages.
Families Minister Rochelle Squires said the goal is to add more employees to the system, reduce turnover and “continue to have those good direct service workers who will enhance the lives of the clients that they serve.”
The baseline wage will increase to $15.11 an hour from $13.75; supervisors’ rates will increase to $16.11 per hour from $15.13. Compensation for staff who work in day programs will increase by 2.7 per cent.
Squires said her department worked with community service providers and advocacy groups to determine the new baseline rates.
“It certainly doesn’t go far enough to recognize the demands of the job and meet all the requests that were provided from community, but it is an initial step,” she said.
Croy, who is a special adviser on disability issues to the minister, acknowledged the support staff who have made meaningful contributions to her life.
However, those workers don’t stick around for long, often due to financial reasons, Croy said.
“Better wages mean qualified staff to support me,” she said.
The province will also spend $5 million to improve access to Children’s disAbility Services, support St.Amant in case management for children with autism, and to add capacity for therapies.
Another $370,000 will be given to Abilities Manitoba for an awareness campaign and to recruit and train staff to ensure the delivery of safe services and support, the province said.
Abilities Manitoba board chair Scott Smith said the commitment by the province is the largest sum of new money the disability services sector has had in two decades. The organization represents several agencies that provide services for adults with intellectual disabilities.
“Our field is facing a labour shortage unlike anything seen before and the pandemic has meant that only a small amount of training has occurred,” Smith said.
“…This certainly is a multifaceted approach that will help create a stronger future.”
Squires said the pay bump is a starting point towards consistency in the sector after the province had to spend millions on wage enhancements during the pandemic.
“We know that it was long overdue,” Squires said.
Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Kyle Ross also welcomed the increased spending, echoing comments by Squires that changes to funding should have happened sooner.
“We’ll be paying close attention to the details of the program,” Ross said in a statement. “It’s vital that this initiative addresses the low wages and benefits in this sector.”
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the sector will continue to face significant challenges despite the Tory government taking a “positive step in the right direction.”
“There are still a lot of holes but it’s something we called for, so this might be an example of the PCs pretending to be moderate by stealing Manitoba Liberal ideas,” Lamont said.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.