Invisible Worker(s), Invisible Hazards: An Examination of Psychological and Physical Safety Amongst Frontline Workers in Long-term Residential Care Facilities in the 'New' Global Economy
Campbell, Andrea Lynn
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Research has consistently demonstrated that the long-term residential care (LTRC) frontline workforce encounters a range of serious health and safety hazards and risks that result in physical and psychological injury, illness, absenteeism, and related costs. Using the lens of feminist political economy, this dissertation explores the risks workers encounter on the frontlines of LTRC, how these workplace risks are shaped by broader social, economic, political, and historical factors, as well as the ways frontline workers resist, challenge, or shape the conditions of their work in this setting. My analysis of primary data is informed by interviews with 17 frontline workers working within for-profit, non-profit, and municipal LTRC facilities within Ontario and 2 key informants. Restructuring and reform of health and social care services under neoliberalism have profoundly transformed the character, funding, organization, and delivery of LTRC. These changes have serious implications for workforce configurations, the conditions of work and care, workplace health and safety, worker control over their labour, and capacities for worker resistance to the conditions of their work. Within the LTRC organizational hierarchy, frontline workers are of marginal status. The frontline workforce is composed predominately of women and increasingly marginalized immigrants and racialized groups, whose care labour on the frontlines is often naturalized, undervalued, and treated as unskilled and safe. This research provides evidence that restructuring and work reorganization processes, policies, and practices constitute a form of structural violence, which contribute to, intensify, and/or give rise to new sources of struggle, inequity, risk, violence, alienation, and exploitation on the everyday/everynight frontlines of LTRC.