Union: New contract will get caregivers to $15 per hour by 2018

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BOSTON — The union representing the state's 35,000 personal care attendants and the Baker administration have agreed to a three-year contract that will provide a 44-cent raise this summer and open a path to a $15 an hour minimum wage for PCAs by 2018, the union announced Monday.

The new contract finalizes an agreement reached last summer by Gov. Charlie Baker and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East to get PCAs to an hourly wage floor of $15 by 2018.

"We're incredibly proud that Massachusetts continues to be a leader in the Fight for $15," Tyr├ęk Lee, Sr., executive vice president of the union, said in a statement. "We applaud the Baker-Polito Administration for their leadership and commitment to fair wages for 35,000 Personal Care Attendants and superb care for the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on them every day to live the independent and dignified lives they deserve."

Administered through MassHealth, the Massachusetts PCA program helps seniors and people with disabilities live independently at home by providing the funds to hire someone to help with "activities of daily living" -- like mobility, bathing and grooming, taking medications and eating.

About 35,000 PCAs serve more than 23,000 seniors or residents with a disability, according to the program's 2014 performance review report. MassHealth expenditures for the PCA program totaled about $514 million in fiscal 2013, according to the report.

Workers in a variety of fields, across Massachusetts and nationwide, have been fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Fast food and retail workers, airport workers and nursing home employees are among those seeking the higher pay floor.

Under the new contract, PCAs will see their wages rise to $14.12 an hour on July 1, then to $14.56 an hour in July 2017 and to $15 an hour in July 2018. The contract talks also yielded a $200,000 annual increase to the union's Training and Upgrading Fund, which helps workers enroll in post-secondary certificate or degree programs.

"Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents depend on Personal Care Attendants to provide quality care, giving seniors and people with disabilities across the Commonwealth the opportunity to stay in their home," Baker said in a statement. "This new contract ensures that the 35,000 men and women who perform this important work have appropriate compensation and increased funding for education."

Other provisions of the new contract include "ongoing discussions regarding expanding the PCA role as Massachusetts plans for a restructured health care system, an improved process to address issues of late and non-payment for PCAs and better access to safety supplies including gloves and masks," according to the union.


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