September 22, 2021 - No. 86
National Day of Action September 17
Nurses Are "Done Asking"
Constituency office of BC Premier John Horgan in Victoria
• We're Already in the Next Healthcare Crisis
- Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Workers' Concerns Are Everyone's Concerns
• No to Legislating Against Postal Workers' Rights!
- Jeff Callaghan
• Serious Concerns About Quebec Government's Bill 59
- Simon Lévesque
National Day of Action September 17
BC to Newfoundland and Labrador, nurses raised their voices on September 17 about their untenable
working conditions. They called on governments to take immediate action
to support nurses and all health care workers under the theme "Done
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) and nurses unions in
the provinces and Quebec organized car caravans, pickets, rallies,
press conferences and social
media events to draw attention to the demands of nurses for safe
staffing levels and pay and working conditions that they need to do
their jobs. In announcing the day of actions the CFNU pointed out that
"Seventeen months into a deadly pandemic, and more than a decade into a
chronic nursing shortage, nurses and health care staff are
overworked, underpaid, burnt out, and suffering moral distress because
there are not enough staff to provide the care patients deserve."
Nurses are speaking in their own names and creating public opinion
for the solutions that are needed, rejecting the high-handed
dictatorial decrees of governments which make the situation worse. They
are demonstrating through their work and their stands that their
working conditions are essential to provide the health care of the
Canada and Quebec and defending their rights and the rights of all.
Prince Edward Island; Newfoundland
The nursing shortage has reached a critical level.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep cracks in Canada's health
care system. These are problems we can't socially distance from. This
election, it's crucial we invest in nurses and health care.
Staffing levels are dangerously low across the country. Twenty-nine
per cent of nurses experienced clinical levels of burnout -- and
that was before the pandemic.
If this health crisis continues, it means fewer emergency beds,
cancelled life-saving surgeries, and less support for long-term
care -- among many other issues.
Our strained health care system needs urgent action, including
investing in more nurses, fixing our long-term care, expanding access
to quality child care, and finally ensuring everyone can get the
medications they need through universal pharmacare.
We need to invest in our health care now -- for a better future
and to recover post-COVID-19. Our political leaders need to step up.
We can't continue with stopgap solutions -- we'll put even more lives at risk.
To learn more, download nurses' platform here.
Workers' Concerns Are Everyone's Concerns
Jeff Callaghan is the National Director, Atlantic Region, of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).
think that the biggest issue for us as CUPW, when it comes to our
employer, is making sure that the employer, and through extension the
government, respects the work we do and does not just pay lip service
When we are in a pandemic they call us heroes, they call our work
essential, and yet every time we go to exercise one of our fundamental
rights in this country, that being the right to withhold our labour,
the government steps in and has the employer's back.
haven't really had the opportunity to freely bargain a collective
agreement for some time now. If we put aside the two-year extension of
the collective agreement that we just agreed to, for at least the last
three or four rounds of bargaining, Canada Post has been reluctant to
deal with really important issues like health and safety. Because of
its intransigence and knowing that the government has its back, it has
not bargained and the government simply sweeps aside our fundamental
rights, legislates us back to work and imposes collective agreements on
I think the biggest issue for the workers at Canada Post
is to make sure that we are able to freely bargain with our
employer without interference, without the Crown corporation knowing
that the government has its back and not the workers' back.
The right to strike is supposed to be a fundamental right and it has
been upheld by the Supreme Court of the land. Yet every time workers,
not just those in the post office but across the country, exercise that
right governments of all stripes, not just the Liberals and the
Conservatives but the NDP provincially as well, have stepped in and
the employer's side and legislated away our rights.
Our members expect a lot more and as far as the union goes, we
devote a large amount of both finances as well as person-power to
bargaining collective agreements for our members in both the public and
private sector. We have seen time and time again that employers sitting
across the table from us pay lip service on how they appreciate our
work, understand our issues, but don't do anything to address those
concerns, knowing that there is a government in their corner.
Our main concern, first and foremost, is our health and safety at
work. We have employers who are pushing forward with new agendas,
bringing in new equipment and work processes, automated equipment that
will put workers' livelihoods at stake.
We need to be able to freely bargain with our employer around those
issues, to make sure that our workers are well protected going forward.
And we can't do that effectively with the way things are in this
country, and provincially, given the
willingness of governments to take the
employer's side every time over that of the workers.
Particularly within the context of the pandemic and the federal
election just past, all political parties have been saying how much
they appreciate workers like the Canada Post workers who worked
through the pandemic providing essential services to people. Yet, with
the federal election over, we know that governments will slip back
into their old way of siding with the employer.
That needs to stop if we are going to have any kind of labour peace
in this country. Workers must feel that they are respected, that the
unions are respected and that the work they do is important for the
country as a whole.
Simon Lévesque is the Head of Health and Safety for the Quebec Federation of Labour-Construction (FTQ-Construction).
A big concern right now is with the Quebec government's Bill 59 on the occupational health and safety regime.
We are very far away from an agreement between employers and workers
about this bill, which supposedly has to do with the modernization of
the regime, when essentially it's about managing losses. Employers want
to save money through the regime by penalizing workers.
They do not want to make commitments to prevention at the workplace.
want to save money on the treatment and rehabilitation of workers'
injuries and on compensation, for example by setting the number of
treatments allowed for an injury. The bill places limits on treatment
and hands the authority for the recognition of occupational diseases
over to regulatory committees, which requires an agreement
between the employer, the union and the Labour Standards, Pay Equity
and Workplace Health and Safety Board (CNESST). We know from experience
that it takes so long to get a regulation that I don't see how we could
agree to have occupational diseases recognized by regulatory committees.
We are in a context of labour scarcity, with employers trying to
fill positions quickly by reducing training, by not worrying about
occupational health and safety. If, within such a context, jobs do not
include adequate working conditions and prevention mechanisms that
protect the health and physical integrity of workers, then when is this
to happen? It would take a big change for this to happen and we know
that the governments in power are not pro-worker.
Employers are making the same economic arguments as in the early
1900s, that health and safety is expensive, that it will kill the
economy, etc. The human factor is not important to them. Everything is
reduced to an issue of money. They talk about reducing costs by
reducing prevention. In fact, it's through prevention that costs will
be reduced. The
human cost is huge and the economy and society as a whole suffer when a
person can no longer function, go out, afford anything, provide for his
or her children.
For employers to say they want to keep their management rights is
absurd. They'll keep their stewardship rights by saying that something
is good for workers even when they know it's not. Bill 59 gives them
what they want, at the expense of the health and safety of workers.
We cannot agree with that.
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