Cherish Lazo has two jobs. During the day she works as a resident care assistant at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre and in the evening, as a cleaner at Capilano University.
Lynn Valley Care Centre was the outbreak centre of Covid-19 and witnessed Canada’s first Covid-19 death. Since the outbreak, the nursing home is paying staff time-and-a-half to continue working and providing much-needed care for the residents but, “at the same time,” exclaims Cherish, “we are putting our lives at risk doing this work.”
Cherish explains how “the fear is always there every time we step in the door. We are afraid and sometimes even cry but we cannot abandon our job. If we are not there, who is going to help the residents? Who is going to sanitize and disinfect everything?”
The private nursing centre is not unionized and many workers like Cherish, work two jobs to pay their bills.
On March 20, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority sent a notice to all employees restricting them to work at only one long-term care facility location. For Cherish, this could mean she will be forced to take a layoff for her evening job at Capilano University, where cleaners there have been doing a deep cleaning of the campus since the Covid-19 outbreak. The hardest part for me is that I have to leave my second job because I work at Lynn Valley. I have to pay for rent, insurance and need to send money to the Philippines. EI may not cover me because I’m still working in my first job.
For workers like Cherish, the measures put forth by the federal and provincial governments are not enough to protect workers. “The government should be acting faster to support us and also make it easier to apply for EI when you lose one of your two jobs.”
But for Cherish, one of the most difficult parts of this pandemic has been the lack of respect cleaners and care aides have faced as frontline workers. I’m experiencing a lot of discrimination. People start to avoid me because I’m working at Lynn Valley. They should respect us more. It’s not easy what we are doing.