Beamsville Albright Manor employees protest vacation and treatment
Nurses and personal support workers were seen protesting outside Albright Manor in Lincoln on July 16, following a series of complaints they filed against the Beamsville long-term care center.
In March 2020, an emergency order was enacted by the provincial government allowing employers of health service providers to defer or cancel employee vacation requests to ensure staffing levels are high enough to providing 24-hour care to residents, as well as reducing the risk of COVID-19 infections.
Albright employees are now alleging that the health center is “abusing” the emergency provisions ordinance. Albright management advocates vacation cancellations as a necessity to maintain adequate staff levels.
“Everyone’s been overworked, they’re exhausted, they just need some time off,” said Karen Kubik, personal support worker, shop steward and Albright employee for 38 years. “And these girls have worked long and hard over the past year and a half. They deserve time with their families. A lot of these girls are working overtime, ”she said.
“If you don’t take care of the staff, how are they going to take care of the residents? ”Asked Nikki Harper, an Albright employee for 12 years, also a personal support worker and shop steward.
She said the understaffing issue existed long before COVID-19 or the provisions ordinance, but employees still had vacations at the time. She said that in order to get time off, employees have the option of making themselves sick or getting time off through their doctor.
Protesting staff have lodged several complaints, including constant understaffing despite the order in place, with Albright rejecting vacation requests shortly before vacation time, lack of inclusion of union staff in vacation decisions of the staff and low wages.
At the time of the protest, Albright Manor’s chief executive, William ter Harmsel, was confirmed on vacation by Ashley Haynes, Albright Manor’s chief financial and information officer. Haynes said the CEO was on a “long overdue vacation,” by emailing Niagara this week.
Despite staff alleging that collective agreements were not honored, Haynes said in an email that Albright tried to honor the agreements as much as possible “but used this order, if necessary, in order to maintain the home security “.
“It is true that Albright has vacancies, especially when it comes to personal support workers and we have constantly hired during the pandemic. This situation is not unique to Albright, but sadly to the systemic problem of the healthcare industry, ”said Haynes.
Haynes said the provincial government has helped hiring as employee retention by providing more affordable training, a shortened training period and temporary pay increases.
Employees say they only saw one percent increase and as a result, many quit.
When asked if these claims were correct and if Albright had done anything outside of provincial mandates to financially assist employees, Haynes said, “The Ontario legislature passed Bill 124, which establishes specific rules concerning salary increases. It would be fair to say that this legislation has limited / will limit their annual compensation to one percent per year, over a period of three years.
As for the allegations of short-notice vacation denial, Haynes said, “Some staff vacations have been denied. The majority of those canceled vacation days occur on weekends. We do our best not to cancel entire vacations, but sometimes we have to cancel individual vacation days in order to maintain a safe level of staffing at home. ”
Unionized workers said they tried to hold a meeting in January to discuss vacation hours with staff, but had not had a chance to meet or give their opinion. When asked to validate these claims, Haynes said: “Dialogue with the union and employees has been maintained,” but gave no insight into the alleged January meeting.
Currently, there is no expiration date set on the province’s interim order.