Citing ongoing risks and workforce issues at Chartwell, unions call for investor action


Citing ongoing risks and workforce issues at Chartwell, unions call for investor action

In an alert to shareholders issued today, UNIFOR, SEIU, Steelworkers and UNI Global Union issue recommendations ahead of Chartwell AGM

Nyon, Switzerland. 11 May 2022 —A coalition of unions representing the majority of Chartwell’s long-term care (LTC) staff is calling on investors in the Canadian nursing home giant to engage the company regarding several workplace risks—including staffing levels, wages and contracts, health and safety as well as freedom of association and collective bargaining—ahead of its 19 May annual general meeting of shareholders.

Canada’s long-term care sector has been particularly impacted by the pandemic, with more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths in long-term care homes, and Chartwell’s tragically high resident death rates from COVID-19 and long list of non-compliance with health regulations have put it at the centre of the crisis.

The coalition, comprised of SEIU Healthcare, UNIFOR, the United Steelworkers and UNI Global Union, issued an alert to investors today that puts a spotlight on workforce risks related to the company’s business model, such as:

  • Dire understaffing. A longstanding problem in long-term care, the pandemic uncovered just how dangerous low staffing is for workers and residents. In 2022, multiple unions, including UNIFOR and SEIU Healthcare, conducted surveys across Chartwell facilities finding that 88 per cent of worker respondents said that low staffing impacted their ability to deliver quality care.
  • Substandard wages. 85 per cent of Chartwell workers surveyed in 2022 reported that their salary does not provide for a decent standard of living, compared to 52 per cent in a 2021 global survey of care workers.
  • High turnover. The overwork that comes with understaffing in combination with low wages drives many workers to consider looking elsewhere for employment. Chartwell’s workforce churn—along with its use of staffing agencies—raises red flags about continuity of care. While the company does not report turnover rate, estimates from SEIU Healthcare data indicate a significantly higher turnover rate than the peers who do, ORPEA and Korian.
  • Unsafe workplaces. Nearly 40 per cent of workers surveyed in 2022 reported that company’s steps to protect residents and employees were inadequate. In addition to near universal reports of stress, exhaustion and physical pain, 7-in-10 workers say they have been physically assaulted on the job and a similar number also experienced verbal harassment.

A unionized workforce and collective bargaining play a key role in addressing these workforce risks. For example, a study published in leading health policy journal Health Affairs found that the presence of a trade union was associated with a 30 per cent lower mortality rate from COVID-19 among nursing home residents. However, Chartwell has historically been hostile to bargaining with trade unions representing workers in its operations.

“Chartwell’s business model is not sustainable for workers, who are worn out, overworked and underpaid,” said UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman. “But it is also not sustainable for long-term investors who want to avoid a crisis like we have seen in other long-term care providers globally. Last year, investors made clear that business as usual is not an option at the company, and Chartwell must now demonstrate to all stakeholders that it is enacting change.”

This is the second year that the unions have called for investor action around the company’s handling of the pandemic. Last year, these unions raised their voice in support of shareholder resolutions that sent a strong signal for further board oversight and disclosures of how the company manages workforce related risks, receiving 31.37 per cent of votes cast.

The coalition’s investor alert contains recommendations for long-term investors to transform the company’s practices, including:

  • Engage with Chartwell about workforce risks, such as low staffing levels and anti-union actions by managers.
  • Become a signatory to the Investor Initiative for Responsible Care, an UNI-backed initiative that seeks to raise the standards across the sector by bringing together more than 100 investors with $3.7 trillion in assets under management.
  • Consider the company’s progress when voting on issues related to the board’s oversight on these critical factors in their governance.

Further comment:

 We may be past the worst of the pandemic in long-term care, but many of the underlying issues that allowed the virus to blaze through Chartwell nursing homes are still there. Acute short staffing and poor working conditions are a chronic problem and have been for many, many years,” said Myles Sullivan, USW District 6 Director (Ontario and Atlantic provinces). “We hope that investors will join with other stakeholders in demanding change at the company.”

Long-term care doesn’t have to be a high-turnover, high-risk industry. We have seen in country after country and company after company the difference a union can make in raising standards for workers and care quality for residents. It’s time Chartwell began listening to and negotiating with its workforce to improve the lives of employees and residents,” Andy Savela, Director of Health Care, UNIFOR.

 “We represent the workers are who breaking their backs, coming home utterly exhausted, facing unsafe work for too little pay to raise a family of their own. We are asking investors to hold this company accountable for the deaths and the illness that happened in its homes. We are asking investors to act to make sure that something like this never happens again,” Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare.


Download the Investor Alert:

English: Investor Alert: Chartwell and the Risks in Long-term Care

French : Alerte aux investisseurs : Chartwell et les risques dans les soins de longue durée


Based in Nyon, Switzerland, UNI Global Union represents 20 million skills and services workers in 150 countries—including 2 million in care. For more information, please contact: Leonie Guguen, Tel: +41 79 137 5436

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 60,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario, Canada. The union’s members work in hospitals, homecare, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

United Steelworkers union represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector union in North America with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.