Wage increase for caregivers welcome but it will take years of investment to reach equity, say advocates

The New Brunswick government has earmarked almost $37 million in its 2022/23 budget to give wage increases to caregivers in the province – workers who look after seniors, people with disabilities and youth in group homes.

Advocates say it’s long overdue and a positive step forward – but won’t increase everyone’s salaries to a living wage.

“I’m one of those workers who do work two jobs to keep up with the cost of living,” said Laurie Anderson, who works at an adult group home in Woodstock, NB

She says the work is challenging, but fulfilling, and that’s why she keeps doing it.

“We know that the vulnerable people in our society, they need to be looked after, and some of them can’t look after themselves. So, we’re there to do it for them,” she said.

The wage increase amounts to $2 extra an hour.

Here’s a sample of what some workers take home now, and what they’ll receive after the increase, according to the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity:

  • Home care services: $15.50 – $17.50
  • Group homes for youth: $16.80 – $18.80
  • Family support services: $16.80 – $18.80
  • Special care homes: $14.50 – $16.50

“But an equitable wage for these roles is more around $22.50 to $26 an hour,” says coalition chair, Krysta Cowling. “When we talk about pay equity, we’re looking at comparing female dominated jobs, so jobs that are traditionally more done by women, and comparing jobs of equal value that are traditionally done by men.”

The coalition has been advocating for the – mostly women – in these roles, for years. Cowling says it’s a positive first step, but it will take about five years of consistent investments to reach equity.

“We’re hopeful that, especially as we continue to see the impact that recruitment and retention are having in these caregiver jobs – and just how much of the work that people in caregiver jobs have been doing during the pandemic – I think across New Brunswick we’re really realizing the impact that these roles have on all of us,” she said.

Once the budget passes – which is likely because of the majority government – $1 will be added in April, the other in October.

Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch said Thursday he couldn’t promise future wage increases, only that he’ll continue to work with the sector over the coming year.

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