Canadians deserve high-quality care, but non-profit hiring crisis is standing in the way

We’ve all heard about the crisis in healthcare, but what most Canadians don’t know is that this crisis is being driven, in part, by an unprecedented labour crisis in our non-profit community care sector.
Ontario government policy is not helping.
Child-care workers, personal support workers (PSWs), attendants/aids, mental health and addictions staff (to name a few) receive vastly different wages in the province’s public, non-profit and for-profit sectors — even when they are funded by the same government program and have the same job, responsibilities and qualifications.
Non-profit wages are the lowest, even though community care is cost efficient, often provides higher quality and is more in-demand. Without enough non-profit workers, closures and reductions in community care services across the province will continue, directly impacting care to our loved ones.
Ontarians rely on non-profit community care every day. Vital services like supports for people with developmental disabilities, immigrants and refugees, drop-in and homeless shelters are part of the province’s care infrastructure. All of these services are funded by government and delivered in various splits between the public, nonprofit and for-profit sectors. But the playing field is unequal.
Community based non-profits are not given the funds to provide salaries on par with municipalities, schools boards and hospitals. Nor does the government allow them the same flexibility of setting salaries they permit for-profit providers delivering the same service.
One significant example is Bill 124, which restricts non-profits to increase wages by only one per cent. For-profit providers are not restricted under this Bill.
PSWs in the home and community care sector make about 21 per cent less than those in hospitals and 17 per cent less than those in long-term care. Drop-in and shelter workers in non-profits have lower wages ($15/hour) than those in municipal respite centres ($30/hour).
This significant wage disparity has meant a mass exodus of non-profit workers. As a result, quality of care for our loved ones is compromised as staff turnover interrupts programs and leaves gaps in staffing, disrupting critical relationships and care systems.
Failure to invest in fair and equitable wages for all front-line care workers is a costly mistake. Those who are most vulnerable will bear the brunt.
The good news is that there are affordable solutions to help Ontarians continue to access the high-quality care they deserve. Based on new research published by Ontario Nonprofit Network, we can achieve wage parity in five years with key investments, ensuring the workforce our communities need is there tomorrow.
I care deeply about our communities receiving the best care possible as they age, get sick or face unexpected life changes. The best way to do that is to make sure the people caring for them are well supported.
We’re losing workers and communities are losing access to care. If we work together on public policy solutions, we can eliminate worker shortages, long wait times and gaps in service.
Pamela Uppal is Director of Policy at Ontario Nonprofit Network.