Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unifor hosts national conference on the future of health care in Canada

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia May 22, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - Unifor is holding a national conference on health care to respond to the unprecedented challenges facing the public system and to health care workers' rights. Local union leaders and members in the health care sector will gather in Halifax from May 23 to 25 at the Delta Halifax to hear from leading experts in health care and to discuss the future of Canada's publicly funded system. Prominent medical professionals and leaders from across the country will present information and insight on the changing health care landscape.
The federal government announced it had no intention to negotiate a new Health Accord after the current agreement of financial and service delivery standards expired this past March. With plans to change the way the provinces and territories receive funding from the federal government beginning in 2017, including financial cuts of $36 billion over ten years, there will be serious implications for health care workers and patients alike.
"Canada's public health care system is at a crossroads. The refusal of the Harper government to negotiate a new Health Accord with the provinces that meets the needs of Canadians combined with the attack on the union rights of health care workers at the provincial level is creating uncertainty, concern and a feeling of insecurity," said Lana Payne, Unifor's Atlantic regional director.
In addition, the conference will examine the attack on the workplace rights of health care workers, including the right to fair collective bargaining.
"Over the past few months, the rights of health care workers have been eroded as a result of legislation from theNova Scotia government. On top of that, our members are worried about the impact less funding for health care will have on the services we provide to Nova Scotians and it's yet to be seen what impact government restructuring plans will have on health care in our province," said Susan Gill, President of Unifor Local 4600, which represents approximately 1,200 health care and daycare workers across Cape Breton Island. "For our members in health care there is no doubt that these are uncertain times."
"It's up to us to demand more from our elected officials with respect to health care," said Katha Fortier, Unifor'sOntario regional director. "We have an aging population which will put more strain on the system and on the workers responsible for people's lives. Health care is a key issue for Unifor, not only because of the workers we represent but because it is something that affects all Canadians."
Highlights include: a presentation from Unifor Economist Jordan Brennan who will emphasize how health care funding is a public policy choice and that Canada can afford ongoing high-quality health care; Unifor National President Jerry Dias speaking about the challenges facing health care workers, particularly in Nova Scotia and OntarioVancouverEast MP Libby Davies on how British Columbia restructured its health care services to improve health care delivery; and a panel discussion entitled "Standing up for Medicare" with the Canadian Health Coalition Director Michael McBane, the Ontario Health Coalition Director Natalie Mehra, the Nova Scotia Citizens Health Care Network DirectorJames Hutt and moderated by Unifor Health Care Director Corey Vermey.
The health care sector is one of the largest single membership categories in Unifor, with over 26,000 members, including over 4,000 in Nova Scotia. This includes a strong concentration of workers in long-term care facilities - some of which are publicly owned, but many of which are controlled by private firms. Thousands more Unifor members work in hospitals and other public health care facilities.
Unifor was founded Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged. With more than 305,000 members, Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector.