Christine, a care aide who worked in a psychiatric facility, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually assaulted by a patient.
She was later subjected to two psychiatric evaluations as part of a difficult process to secure the supports she needed from WorkSafeBC.
“The hoops I had to jump through to prove that my trauma was caused by a workplace incident was almost as traumatizing as the incident itself,” Christine said.
Christine, who did not provide her last name, was one of two care aides to speak at a press conference at Burnaby’s New Vista Society care home on Tuesday. The event highlighted two changes – presumptive compensation approvals and successorship protection – to the province’s labour relations code.
As of April, care aides like Christine no longer have to prove a mental health injury was caused on the job. Publicly funded health-care professionals, along with first responders, 911 dispatchers and nurses, are now presumed to have incurred PTSD or other mental health disorders in the job.
“I can honestly say, if I didn't have to prove that the trauma of those three days caused this PTSD that I live with now, that would have been a blessing,” Christine said, referring to the day of her attack and the subsequent two days when she continued to work in the same facility.
Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents B.C.’s care aides, praised the move. She said the vast majority of care aides in B.C. report being struck, scratched or spat on on the job.
“Care aides put themselves at risk every day on the job in our long-term care system and in our hospitals and in our community,” Whiteside said.
Whiteside also praised a proposed change to B.C.’s labour laws that would protect workers’ subject to so-called “contract flipping” – when an employer changes contracts with a contractor providing services.
Care aides are especially vulnerable to contract flipping, Labour Minister Harry Bains said.
It’s common for care aides to be left without jobs when their employer changes contracts, he said. The employees then have to apply for their jobs again and, Bains said, even if they are rehired, it’s often at a loss of union representation, seniority and pay.
Under proposed labour code changes that are up for a final vote in the legislature next week, new contractors would be required to respect existing unions and collective agreements in workplaces.
Jhove Satumera, a care aide who works at a facility on the North Shore, said she was been subjected to several contract flips.
“For the last 16 years, we were always afraid that contract flipping was around the corner, that everyone would be laid off and we would have to start all over – again and again,” she said. “I was worried I wouldn't see the seniors I care for again. Like every care aide I know, I love my job and I love the seniors we care for.”
When a contract was flipped, Satumera said she was rehired but as a non-unionized worker and making half her previous wages. The care aides had to re-unionize every time, she said.
“Each one was distressful and scary,” she said.