Unifor health care members gathered in Port Elgin September 13-15 to learn more about the issues facing health workers in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“We come together at this conference to build our power, to educate each other, and to use this collective power to advocate for every health care worker in the country,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “More than ever, our health care system needs defending and our health care workers need respect and support.”
Representatives from the Canadian Health Coalition, Ontario Health Coalition and the Nova Scotia Health Coalition shared the focus of their activism and how Unifor members can plug into these campaigns to fight back against privatization, to advocate for a national pharmacare program and to save our public health funding.
The conference also provided a space to discuss the daily struggles of working in health care. Delegates broke up into their respective sub-sectors and shared the challenges they face, like dealing with violent patients and residents, the lack of training for dealing with mental health issues, and chronic under-staffing and under-resourcing.
Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi spoke of the attacks on health care from the Ford Government and what Ontarians have been doing to fight back.
“It's been a year riddled with challenges, but marked by great fightbacks,” said Rizvi. “We have put Doug Ford’s government on notice. We will not sit idly by and allow our pubic services to be gutted.”
Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil reported on her presentation to the Nova Scotia Expert Panel on Long-Term Care. The Panel's process allowed stakeholders to offer suggestions to the government on how to improve long-term care in the province.
The union consulted with members in homes across the province and submitted a full report directly to the Expert Panel and spoke with their years and years of experience in the system. The union’s report recommended the Expert Panel address the issues holistically, realizing that recruitment and retention is so difficult largely due to under-funding and already overworked current staff.
“In January, the panel made loose recommendations and what amounted to a bunch of stop-gap measures like having unskilled, untrained, low-wage workers supporting CCAs,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “That was nine months ago. Our members haven't seen any improvements in workload. Recruitment is still horribly low. Retention is still incredibly low. So we have to continue to fight. And we will.”