Serious Challenges in Health Care and Social Services

All Out to Support Workers' Rights and Voices

Each day brings more news about untenable working conditions in health care and social services and concerns that the delivery of services is reaching a breaking point. One of the salient features of this dire situation is the resignation of an ever-increasing number of nurses and other health care workers. This loss aggravates the existing acute staff shortage which has been worsened by illness and injury that force more and more workers onto sick leave. There are cases where nurses had to organize on-the-job actions such as sit-ins or refusals to show up for work because the conditions are so unsafe for themselves and their patients. The prospect of facing a predicted second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic under these conditions is daunting.

The unsustainability of the working conditions goes hand in hand with the unsustainability of the process by which the government executives are using ministerial powers to attack workers' rights and to violate their negotiated conditions, ignore their experience and expertise, their proposals, and their voice. Workers are delivering services at great risk to their health and their lives, and have to work in a situation where the decision-making process is not of their making nor the people's making. This process denies that they are the essential factor in the delivery of services and must have a decisive say in the organization of health care and social services. No matter how often and how emphatically they are called "guardian angels," they are considered and treated as a cost to the system, and as troublemakers who are disrupting those with executive power with their demands, their concerns, and their voice. This contempt for their dignity and rights, on top of the untenable working conditions, is a major factor leading to resignations and illness and heightened anxiety amongst health care workers.

Workers' Forum firmly supports all the efforts and the determination of the workers to present solutions that can alleviate the crisis for the benefit of all. Among others, these are the demands for improved staff/patients ratios; solving the problem of hiring and retaining personnel by providing proper working conditions; ending mandatory overtime; ending the practice of forcing workers to move from one place to another, especially from cold zones, where there are no COVID-19 infections, to hot zones where there are infections, and so on. Health care workers also have our full support for their demand that the ministerial orders and dictatorial laws be withdrawn. This includes the court action that the Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec (FIQ) filed on July 13 against the Legault government's renewal of its March 21 ministerial order 2020-007 which violates their members' rights and continues to suspend several provisions in their collective agreement.

Workers also need space and time to exchange views on the situation, speak in their own name and assess what can be done to block the attacks on workers and the public and to provide a new direction to the health care system, to all aspects of delivery of services, and to the economy as a whole so as to build a society which is fit for human beings. Workers' Forum is working actively to facilitate the exchange of views and discussion by workers in health care and other sectors and to contribute to organizing other kinds of forums in which workers speak their minds on their situation and the challenges they are facing.

In this issue, Workers' Forum is publishing information on the conditions and fight of Quebec and Ontario workers in health and social services, along with two contributions it has received: a letter from a senior living in a private seniors' residence and a poem written by a youth who worked as a temporary caregiver in a Montreal long-term care centre.

This article was published in

Number 61 - September 15, 2020

Article Link:
Serious Challenges in Health Care and Social Services: All Out to Support Workers' Rights and Voices


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