Unifor’s health care conference brought together the largest group of health care workers ever, as more than 203 participants from 19 local unions in Ontario and Nova Scotia gathered at the union’s education centre in Port Elgin from June 9-11.
This yearly national conference explored the need to advocate for strengthening universal public health care, creating a national pharmacare program, ending cuts to hospitals and long-term care, as well as minimum hours of care.
Conference delegates also had the opportunity to root these issues in their own experience during workshops on mental health, workplace stress and bullying; a new vision for long-term care; and violence in the workplace. The conference also heard from Secretary-Treasurer Bob Orr, Assistant to the President Katha Fortier, Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne and Health Care Director Andy Savela, in addition to a number of thought-provoking guest speakers, including coalition partners.
“Unions know that losing medicare would be devastating for working people,” said Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. Meagher spoke extensively about the threat to public health care, posed by encroaching privatization and government’s failure to uphold the Canada Health Act.
The event also featured presentations by the Canadian Health Coalition’s National Co-ordinator Adrienne Silnicki and Blood Watch’s Co-Founder and Chair Michael McCarthy, who emphasized the need for a universal, publicly-funded pharmacare program and why we must ensure that blood collection services stay public.
“We’re the only country in the world, with universal health care without a universal drug plan,” said Silnicki, adding that a national drug plan would save $11-14 billion a year, for government, business and residents.
With the departure of long-time health care National Executive Board member Nancy McMurphy, President of Unifor Local 302, the conference nominated health care activist Shauna Wilcox, Financial Secretary of Unifor Local 4600 in Cape Breton, on behalf of the Health Care Council.