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CUPE Health Care Council President Gordon Campbell welcomed about 170 CUPE health workers to the 15th annual Health Care Conference. 

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Cree elder Edward Baldhead shared a prayer in his own language. CHCC Executive and staff were introduced. 

Mayor Donald Atchison welcomed delegates to Saskatoon on behalf of all residents. He shared a personal health care story from 1962 when he hurt himself while riding his bike. His mother took him to hospital but because of the doctors’ strike, nurses sent them home and his mother removed the rock implanted in his knee. He wears the scar to this day.

Atchison said that often the most important words are never said. “And that is, thank you. Thank you for all the work you do,” he said. “When we work together, we accomplish so much more.”

Marlene Brown, president of the Saskatchewan Health Coalition reminded delegates that Canadians overwhelmingly support public solutions to make health care stronger. Brown shared an email from Dr. Michael Rachlis about the Sask Party government’s announcement to build the Plains Surgery Outpatient Care Centre: ‘Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Congrats and best wishes to Saskatchewan CUPE and the rest of the folks in this province that made this happen.’

Brown raised concerns that Federal Conservative policies mean that “more and more Canadians will lack comparable services.” She said that the Health Coalition supports a national strategy for health care including pharmaceuticals.

She thanked CUPE members for their work and support.

Health care workers can be proud

CUPE Legal Rep Linda Dennis updated delegates on the ongoing Unfair Labour Practice cases regarding difficulties in the last round of health care bargaining. Dennis said that despite her long career, even she was shocked at some of SAHO’s actions. SAHO issued news releases the instant they were communicated to the unions, ran newspaper ad campaigns with multiple ads in the same issue, radio ads that ran multiple times each hour, and had tent cards on tables in cafeterias. The employer wallpapered posters throughout facilities, including in bathroom stalls where members could not escape employer ‘propaganda’ even in workers’ most private moments.

SAHO really underestimated membership and their resolve,” said Dennis.

She also spoke about the landmark decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench on essential services. Dennis explained that Mr. Justice Ball looked at the Health Services case and accepted that the freedom of association protected collective bargaining but said that to be meaningful, collective bargaining had to include the right to certification, the obligation to bargain in good faith, and the right to strike.

CUPE health care workers should be so proud of the role they played in that decision,” said Dennis. Justice Ball’s decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court.

50 years of Medicare in Saskatchewan

Guest Dr. Ryan Meili spoke on the 50th anniversary of Medicare and community clinics. “We need to expand Medicare, rather than just looking to the past,” said Dr. Meili.

Meili said that we need to base health care on social determinants that offer a way to concentrate the mission of our society and to re-establish a common goal. Social determinants include income and income distribution; education; unemployment and job security; employment and working conditions; food security; housing; social inclusion; social safety net; health services; Aboriginal status; gender; race; and disability.

We all care about health care for ourselves, our families, our neighbours,” said Meili. “Health care isn’t a goal in itself.  The goal is health and we are the vehicle to make that happen.”

Our national president inspires delegates

CUPE National President Paul Moist got a warm and enthusiastic welcome from delegates. He updated them on health care issues and bargaining across Canada.

Members want us to bargain hard, represent them at work, and get good collective agreements, not fight amongst ourselves,” said Moist in reference to the Nurses’ raid on CUPE/HEU LPNs in B.C.

He talked about the importance of fighting for good collective agreements, “not just for ourselves, but for those to follow.” The national president said that contents of collective agreements can make for good public policy.

Moist chronicled what one year of a Harper majority has meant for Canadians, including forcing some to work until age 67, attacks on unemployment insurance, and working on legislation that allows temporary immigrant workers, a group already exploited, to be paid 15 per cent less.

All authority can’t go to the boss,” said Moist about Harper signing up to be appeal the essential services ruling in Saskatchewan. “We’ll provide essential services, but not in the manner Wall wants us to.”

Moist reminded delegates that not only is Saskatchewan the birthplace of Medicare, but also of the Trade Union Act. Under Tommy Douglas, Saskatchewan was the first in Canada to give rights to workers.

People fought like hell to put together our collective agreements, Trade union rights stand on the shoulders of people who built the health care agreement in this province,” said Moist.

Moist said that the work we do is critically important. In the face of attacks on workers and our rights “we need to strengthen our solidarity within, build coalitions, and fight smart and think strategically”.  

Presentations inform and update

Presentations included an update on LPNs from the CHCC LPN Committee; Shared Services Review; Health Care Council Year in Review video; CLC Pension video and discussion; CHCC Workload Committee presentation; and a presentation by Regional Director Aina Kagis and CUPE SK Secretary Treasurer Judy Henley on where workplace rights are headed under the Sask Party government consultation on labour law.

This labour legislation is an attack on everybody. This is critical,” said Henley. “This will affect the lives of every single working person in Saskatchewan.”

Conference speaker Diana Gibson, the former research director of Alberta’s Parkland Institute, told conference participants that some governments claim it doesn’t matter who delivers health care services so long as it is publicly funded.

But Ms. Gibson said public delivery does matter because it controls cost, improves quality and provides better wages and working conditions.

CUPE Health Care Council president reports

CUPE Health Care Council Gordon Campbell updated members on bargaining, shared service reviews being conducted by 3sHealth, and actions of the Council over the past year.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of not only the CUPE Health Care membership, but that of the Health Council Executive members and staff,” said Campbell. “They have made sure that your concerns have come to the Council’s attention and have worked tirelessly towards the resolve health care membership issues.”

 Delegates elect CUPE Health Care Council officers

As per the Health Care Council’s constitution, delegates elected two table officers and two executive members.  Re-elected for two year terms are Pearl Blommaert, Vice President; Jim Carr, Treasurer; Scott McDonald, executive member representing CUPE Local 3967; and Brian Manegre, executive member representing CUPE Local 5111.  Stan Adcock was re-elected as Trustee for a three-year term. 

Next year, elections will be held for the positions of President, Recording Secretary and three executive members. Continuing to serve are President Gordon Campbell; Recording Secretary Sandra Seitz; executive members Carol McKnight from CUPE Local 4777; Rhonda Oneschuk, CUPE Local 4980, and Wanda Edwards, CUPE Local 5999.