MEDIA RELEASE: 811 Workers Speak Out
Telehealth Associates who are responsible for operating the province’s 811 telehealth system are speaking out publicly about how staff shortages are affecting their workplace.
Workers have filmed a series of videos with the union, talking about the challenges they have finding and keeping staff, as well as how their scope of work has expanded. The union has concealed their identities, as they may face disciplinary action from their employer for speaking out, and is releasing the first video today.
“These workers are amongst the lowest paid health care workers in Canada,” said NSGEU 1st Vice-President Hugh Gillis, “There are currently 152,000 Nova Scotians without access to a doctor. They are being told to rely on this service, it is unconscionable that these workers are making less than a living wage.”
There are currently just 17 Telehealth Associates employed by Emergency Medical Care Inc., and they are the first point of contact for members of the public who call 811 to receive medical advice around-the-clock. They gather information to identify if the call needs to go to the nurses or, in the case of an emergency, they transfer immediately to 911. They also help get people listed on the family physician waitlist.
Staffing shortages have been so acute that workers have had to be mandated to work overtime, which is leading to worker fatigue and burn-out, and jeopardizing the service.
While the employer has moved all workers up to the top of their existing payscale, that still means these workers are making $18.44 an hour, which is well below what is considered a living wage in Nova Scotia, and eight dollars an hour less than people doing similar work for HRM’s 311 service. A living wage in Halifax, which is where the 811 service is based, is considered to be $23.50 per hour. Operators doing similar work for HRM’s 311 service have a starting pay of $26.90 per hour.
NSGEU is calling for the members’ current contract, which does not expire until October 2024, to be immediately reopened to address low wages in the face of unprecedented inflationary pressures.
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents nearly 36,000 workers who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU 1st Vice-President Hugh Gillis, please contact:
Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer,
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