October 11, 2018
Growing Demands to Increase
Investments in Health Care
and Keep the System Public
Mass Rally in Ontario to Rebuild and
Improve Public Health Care
Growing Demands to Increase Investments
in Health Care and
Keep the System Public
• Mass Rally to Rebuild and Improve Public
• Health Care Workers Fight for Immediate and
Long-Term Demands, Against
the Wrecking of the Sector - Interview, Jeff Begley, President
of the Federation
of Health and Social Services
• Health Professionals Protest Cutbacks and
Deteriorating Working Conditions
• Shortage of Nurses Driven by Neo-Liberal
• Talks Suspended Between ABI Workers and
Alcoa-Rio Tinto Cartel
Growing Demands to Increase Investments
in Health Care
and Keep the System Public
Mass Rally to Rebuild and Improve
Public Health Care
On Tuesday October 23,
a mass rally is being held at noon at Queen's Park in Toronto to warn
the Doug Ford government that the public health care system in
Ontario needs to be rebuilt and improved and to say No! to cuts and privatization. The
rally is sponsored by the Ontario Health Coalition and many unions
including the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE, the Ontario
Public Service Employees Union.
September 21 press release,
Coalition writes: "The Coalition notes that Ontario has
already cut and downsized its public hospitals for decades. In fact, no
other province in Canada, and virtually no other country in the
developed world, has cut as deeply as this province. Already Ontario
has the lowest
public hospital funding in the country. We have fewer hospital beds
left than any other province. Ontario has the lowest level of nursing
care per patient, occupancy [overcrowding] levels in hospitals that are
unparalleled anywhere in Canada or Europe. Here, patients are pushed
out of hospitals more quickly than in other provinces, and as a
consequence, Ontario has the highest levels of hospital re-admission in
the country. One in ten patients ends up back in hospital after they
are discharged. As overcrowding has reached crisis levels, violence in
hospitals has spiked. 30,000 people are waiting for long-term care
placements and care levels are too low to provide for their needs.
The Coalition is calling on government to rebuild and restore services,
not cut and privatize. "
The organizers of the rally estimate that further
wrecking of health care and public services through massive cuts and
privatization is to be expected from the new Ontario government. They
point in particular to its pledge to cut $6 billion in public
service spending over four years through "efficiencies," to balance the
budget in its first term and to offer massive tax cuts, mainly to the
highest earners and to corporations, under the hoax of "protecting the
taxpayer" and that "Ontario is Open to Business."
That is why the demands of the rally are aimed at
rebuilding and improving the public health care system.
The demands are:
- Hospital funding must be
set at a rate that will protect service levels and stop cuts. This
means a 5.3 per cent/year funding increase for the next four years.
- A capacity plan must be
developed to plan to meet population need for care.
- Closed hospital wards and
floors must be reopened, closed operating rooms must be funded, and
services that have been cut must be restored.
- Closed and privatized
outpatient services must be reopened and restored in our local public
hospitals to meet population need, including but not limited to
outpatient physiotherapy, labs, day clinics and others.
- Patients must be protected
from extra-billing and user-fees in private clinics. Canada's and
Ontario's Medicare laws must be protected, strengthened and upheld.
- An immediate moratorium
must be declared to stop the closures of local hospitals, consolidation
of local services and the mega-mergers of local public hospitals.
- New hospitals must be
financed using public borrowing rather than exorbitantly expensive P3
privatization, with sound management and public oversight. The
substantial savings generated from this can be used to rebuild public
capacity and improve access to care.
- Our public hospitals and
health services must be governed democratically in the public interest
by Boards of Directors that reflect the diversity of our communities.
- Services must be
transparent, accountable and responsive to patients and communities.
Legislation must be amended to provide full access to quality of care
information in public hospitals. Staff should be protected when they
advocate for quality and access issues in the public interest.
- Concrete steps must be
taken to move public funding away from activities that do not add value
and are not improving care.
- Curtail exorbitant
executive salaries and the use of PR firms, unnecessary advertising and
- Cease the practices of
shadow-billing and price-based procedures in hospital clinical care.
The Coalition writes:
"The best way to protect
public health care is to push for what we know we need and to ensure
that this government is afraid to cut and privatize health care. We
need to set the agenda and make them respond to us.
"Please join us. A show of strength is vitally
important at this juncture. We know that the people of Ontario are with
us. No one wants more cuts. The overwhelming majority of Ontarians
oppose health care privatization. We need to mobilize, to make visible
the public demand to improve our public health care. We need to inspire
stand up and make cuts and privatization impossible. We can do this.
We've done it before. But we need your help."
Buses are being organized from local communities across
Ontario so that people can attend. To fill a bus registration form, click
Health Care Workers Fight for
Immediate and Long-Term Demands,
Against the Wrecking of the Sector
In a press release issued
October 4, the Federation
of Health and Social Services (FSSS-CSN) called for an emergency
investment of $50 million from the new Quebec government to avoid
what it calls a breakdown in the health care and social services
Workers' Forum recently
spoke with federation
president Jeff Begley about the demands of health care workers.
Workers' Forum: Can you tell us more
about the federation's assessment that Quebec's health care system is
at a breaking point?
Jeff Begley: Several things show
that the breakdown is actually happening. One example is the
significant crisis in the ability to retain and hire staff. The
Ministry is well aware of the problem of the movement of labour in the
sector. There are people in the Ministry who have assessed the
situation and found that we are
facing a crisis. Added to this is the fact that given the shortage of
manpower, those who remain are more stressed and end up in situations
where they always have to give more.
In the last four years, there has been a 25 per
cent increase in the number of people on short-term disability
which can be up to two years. At the same time, there is very little
hiring being done in the health care sector because the conditions have
become extremely bad. People are asking themselves why they would go
to work in the public sector that looks like such a chaotic place. We
are no longer able to hold onto our people. On average, new hires stay
in the sector a maximum of three years. It was not like that before.
Attendants with 20 to 25 years of experience were common in
the past. There are still some, for example, those who
must stay and work until retirement. If they had other choices, there
are many who would leave. But there are more and more young people who
start and then say after a short period of time that it is enough, and
begin looking for something else.
The shortage of workers in the health care sector is
very real and it does not affect only nurses and attendants. It also
affects people who work in administrative, professional and maintenance
positions, and skilled workers. It is clear that there is a direct link
between this shortage and the deterioration of conditions. It must also
that when there is a shortage of people who ensure the cleanliness of
institutions, there is a recurrence of infectious diseases and
increased risk that workers and patients will contract these diseases.
WF: What work is the FSSS doing to
change this situation?
JB: We think that at the same time
that permanent solutions are needed to repair the damage of the four
years of Liberal Party rule and the Barrette reforms, we need immediate
measures to ensure the retention of the staff still in the sector. That
is why we are asking for an immediate investment of $50 million
we are preparing for the next round of negotiations and for permanent
solutions. The next round of negotiations is in 2020. If we wait
until then before taking action the situation will continue to worsen
and the public health care system will be totally wrecked.
Our people who are at work must receive the message
that the fundamental problems in the system will be dealt with, while
immediate measures are going to be taken to retain the people who are
already there, so as to stop the decline in the sector. For example,
money has to be injected immediately to replace people who are on
short-term disability. The harassment of the people on short-term
disability to force
them to come back to work before they are well must be stopped. When
they come back, they must be able to stay. Since there is currently a
significant increase in the number of people on short-term disability
are being harassed to return to work and then they become sick
again a few months later.
Solutions may vary with regard to retention according
to the sector. Attendants, people assigned to home care, maintenance
workers are not facing exactly the same conditions. We are ready to sit
down tomorrow with the employers and the government to review the
application of emergency measures, while knowing that those measures
not a permanent solution.
With regard to permanent solutions, we are in the
process of preparing consultations with our members. We strongly
believe that our members are able to identify solutions and we will be
consulting widely with all our members. The people who work and operate
the system against all odds, have solutions to the problems of the
sector and will
be involved in identifying them so that this is reflected at the
Among other things is the health and safety of our
members. Our demand is for the health and social services sector to
become a priority sector in the Occupational
Act. At present, the health and social
services sector is not considered a priority sector. Yet, we have one
of the worst records in terms of health and safety of
the workers. It is necessary that there be prevention in the sector
instead of waiting for people to become sick. There is no prevention
being done right now. If we were considered a priority area, we would
have prevention representatives and joint health and safety committees.
This is the work we are doing at this time to press for
immediate emergency measures and permanent solutions.
Health Professionals Protest Cutbacks and
Deteriorating Working Conditions
Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Respiratory
Therapists from the Outaouais and allies held a march to say loud and
clear that in order to retain staff, the employer must improve working
conditions, starting with the elimination of mandatory overtime whereby
nurses sometimes have to work 12 hours or more without a break.
by the Outaouais Care Professionals Union (SPSO),
symbolically gathered at La Pieta Hospital in Hull and then crossed the
Alexandra Bridge to Ottawa to underscore the exodus of nurses from the
province that could occur if their working conditions continue to
deteriorate. Throughout the march, the healthcare professionals
chanted slogans denouncing different aspects of their grueling working
conditions that their employer, the Integrated Health and Social
Services Center of the Outaouais (CISSSO), wants to further aggravate.
Among the requests for concessions made by CISSSO during the current
round of local negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement
are compulsory overtime, the abolition of a weekend off every two
weeks, to force the professionals in care to be available every
weekend, and the ability to change the work schedule to less than 48
hours without notice. There is also the demand for nurses to travel
several kilometers to work in different locations at the employer's
Shortage of Nurses Driven by Neo-Liberal Agenda
Demonstration by health care workers, in Levis, December 1, 2017.
In a guest column published in the October 1 issue
of Le Devoir under the title "Lack of nurses: real or
structural shortage?", Mia Laberge, a union advisor with the
Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec (FIQ), criticizes
employers in the health network who invoke the argument of the shortage
of nurses to block
the implementation of ratios of health care professionals to patients.
These ratios, she points out, are an essential remedy for nurses'
She writes: "It is very convenient to blame the
problems on the shortage of labour. Employers can no longer hide behind
this fairy tale. The well-being of thousands of Quebec workers and the
quality of care for patients are at stake here."
The author cites statistics showing that from
April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 more nurses were
joining the profession than leaving, and that the number of nurses
retiring was almost the same as in the previous year. Meanwhile, for
the past fifteen years, she writes, nurses have experienced full
at 95 per cent. The rate of full-time employment is decreasing. It
has decreased by one percentage point in most regions of Quebec since
the 2015-2016 statistical report. In 2016-17, 58.4 per
cent of nurses worked full-time, 33.3 per cent part-time
and 8.3 per cent on an occasional basis. As the nursing workforce
is growing steadily,
particularly since 2012-2013, the problem lies more in the
planning of the workforce, planning which is ideologically driven by
neo-liberal management of the health care sector.
Thus, according to the author, despite real needs and a
context of full employment that favours the increase in the number of
full-time positions, nurses are still confined to precariousness. She
describes the nursing shortage as structural, driven by neo-liberal
policies, because part-time jobs proliferate to the detriment of
While precarious employment is prevalent among nurses, there is a
constant reliance on overtime, including mandatory overtime, and
contract workers hired from private placement firms. The deficit of
full-time positions, she writes, inevitably leads to a lack of staff
and an overload of care professionals. The consequences are serious for
network, for patients, but especially for the working conditions of
thousands of workers, most of whom are women.
She adds: "The neo-liberal management of the health
care network is thus more and more openly interfering with care. Nurses
experience constant organizational violence. They are the ones who must
constantly overcome the failures of managers and face abuse from some
doctors who are always asking for more. They face the "Toyota"
reforms, the "Lean" programs, the lack of political will, and the
underfunding of the public health system. They are always asked for
more flexibility, more mobility across huge territories, more
conciliation, and they are constantly confronted with abuse of their
dedication to their profession.
The author concludes that adequate ratios of care
professionals to patients are an essential and urgent remedy for
nurses' collective exhaustion and must be implemented immediately.
Talks Suspended Between ABI Workers
and Alcoa-Rio Tinto Cartel
General membership meeting, USW Local 9700, October 9, 2018.
USW Local 9700, which represents the 1,030
employees at the ABI aluminum smelter in
Bécancour, Quebec who have been locked out since
January 11, confirms the mediator's announcement that negotiations
with ABI have been suspended. In an October 5 press release,
Local 9700 says the gap is too great between the workers
and the Alcoa-Rio Tinto cartel, which owns the smelter, for any talks
to proceed at this time to reach a collective agreement acceptable to
Following a meeting between the union and Alcoa's
senior management in Pittsburgh on September 6, some smaller
committee meetings have taken place between representatives of the two
parties to see if negotiations could resume. The talks were
unsuccessful due to the refusal of the company to reconsider its demand
The union updated its members on the situation at a
general meeting on October 9, attended by over 700 workers.
The following day, the union held a press conference to report that the
ABI executives have now made additional demands for concessions
regarding the pension plan, short-term health insurance and union leave
"This is an even worse offer than in last December,"
said the President of the Local Clément Masse to Workers'
Forum. "Instead of getting closer to a settlement, we are moving
away from it. Workers understand that there can be no negotiations if
one of the parties does not want to negotiate. The workers want a
and to get back to work, but not by going backwards on their
conditions. We are still strong and determined to go back to work with
a negotiated agreement that is acceptable to us."
The union has been consistent in saying that the
dispute is focused on respect for seniority in job postings and
movement of workers inside the plant, and on funding for the pension
plan. The owners had submitted an offer last December that the workers
rejected. At the same time, the workers made it clear that the
employer's offer could
serve as a basis for further negotiations and agreement. The company
ignored this positive sentiment and locked out the workers and began
demanding even more concessions.
The workers and their union do not accept that the
owners are now putting other issues on the table. This is similar to
what the company did in March when it announced that it now wants a
complete restructuring of the company's operations in the name of
flexibility and competitiveness. In this context, it demanded the
abolition of 20
per cent of the unionized positions at the plant and their replacement,
if it chooses to replace them, with non-union positions at terms and
conditions worse than those of the current unionized workers.
The union recognizes these actions as attacks on both
the living and working conditions of the workers in the factory and, by
extension, on the community and the region. The concessions demanded
the brutal lockout are aimed at diminishing the ability of workers
organized into their union to wage effective struggles in defence of
rights and of the regional economy, now and in the future.
Wall outside ABI plant thanks all those who have financially supported
USW Local 9700
throughout the lock-out and who continue to do so.
The workers do not accept this state of affairs and
continue to request government intervention in recognition of the fact
that the company refuses to bargain in good faith as it is required to
do under the agreements in place. The workers want the new CAQ
government, which came to power in the Quebec election on October 1,
to pressure the company to stop its provocative activities and
insistence on dictate, and to negotiate seriously with the workers.
ABI workers participate in rally outside "Leaders Debate" during Quebec
September 13, 2018.
The union is calling for the immediate end of the force
majeure clauses in the hydro-electric agreement among the owners,
government and Hydro-Québec. According to a one-sided
interpretation of these clauses, the company-authorized and controlled
lockout has become a force majeure, which releases
Tinto from its obligations to pay Hydro-Québec for the energy
block reserved for it at preferential rates. Quebeckers through
Hydro-Québec have lost almost $160 million to date because
of this agreement and opportunistic bogus interpretation of force
Under a reasonable and not
one-sided definition, a force majeure is due to an event or
effect that the parties to a contract could not have anticipated or
controlled. The Alcoa-Rio Tinto lockout of its workers is under the
control of the company and invoking the clause could only have been
planned in advance with a very specific aim to allow the
company to weather the lockout with less monetary damage and put
maximum pressure on workers to make concessions.
The lockout does not constitute an "act of god" or
uncontrollable event that is not the fault of any party to the
agreement. The lockout was completely company instigated to serve its
narrow private interests in opposition to the interests of the workers
and their community. The government and Hydro-Québec should not
agree to the
company's one-sided definition, which grossly favours the company in
its fight to impose concessions on its workforce, the regional
community and Quebec generally so that it can take out of Quebec even
more of the value workers produce.
The anti-social dictate of the company for concessions,
along with its refusal to negotiate and the force
majeure, are also meant to weaken the organized resistance of
workers in the long-term. They constitute wrecking of Quebec and an
attack on the dignity of working people and cannot and should not be
tolerated by any Quebec institution, the people or government.
Meanwhile, workers in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada
are stepping up their support for the locked out ABI workers, including
financial support. On October 5, USW Local 8897 workers at
ArcelorMittal Longueuil announced a doubling of the financial
assistance they provide every week to ABI workers and have called on
USW locals to do the same.
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