‘We don’t feel valued’: Staff at Pawtucket group home demand hazard pay, safer staffing

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Staff at The Arc of Blackstone Valley group home in Pawtucket are fed up with management, telling Eyewitness News that their dedication to their residents throughout the pandemic has been severely undervalued.

In what appears to be part of the “new normal,” employees of the facility participated in a caravan protest Wednesday afternoon, driving back and forth while honking their horns and holding up signs in front of the building.

Monica Scott, a direct support staff worker at the group home, said she hopes the caravan will convince management to provide its employees with hazard pay. She believes it’s the least they can do since their employees are putting their lives on the line every time they clock in.

“We don’t feel valued,” Scott said. “We could be at home collecting and getting $600 a week – which we don’t even make $600 a week here working without making overtime.”

Scott said they’re also asking for more personal protective equipment (PPE) and safer staffing.

Employees tell Eyewitness News they have been offered $2-5 more an hour in hazard pay, but they don’t believe that’s enough, and neither does Pawtucket City Council member Meghan Kallman.

“We need to do better by them while we are searching for more PPE,” Kallman said. “While companies are gearing up to produce that, we need to compensating people for this incredibly dangerous work that they are doing.”

SEIU Healthcare 1199, the union which represents most of the group home’s employees, said there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases among the front line workers at the facility.

Even though they’re working in a high-risk environment, Scott said they continue to come to work each day to look after their residents.

“We don’t know who would do it if we didn’t and at least we know that the folks are being well taken care of,” Scott said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the facility for comment but hasn’t heard back.

Update: Organizers reached out to Eyewitness News to say the caravan planned for Thursday will not be happening because workers at the home are now receiving hazard pay.

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