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With front-line caregivers attending from across the country, CUPE’s health care sector meeting kicked off today in Victoria with a pledge to protect and improve public Medicare services for Canadians.

Our 190,000 health care members are up to the challenge to defend Medicare and advance solutions to make our public system better,” CUPE National president Paul Moist told more than 300 delegates attending the event.

Medicare is very affordable,” said Moist. “Government budgets are strained because they’ve cut taxes too deeply.”

Pharmacare, more home care and better long-term care are high on CUPE’s priority list,” Moist said, “as are efforts to win equal pay for mostly women health workers, and adequate pensions.”

Meanwhile, front-line care providers shared their experiences in a session to set the context for the three-day event. New Brunswick long-term care worker Sharon Teare provided details on the success story of winning pay parity with hospital-based colleagues in her province. 

Alain Tessier, a negotiator for CUPE in Quebec, reported on the common front bargaining gains across the broad public sector in his province.

Ontario’s Peggy Smith spoke passionately about efforts to fight rampant cuts in Ontario.  Also, Licensed Practical Nurse Jeanneth Jacome said significant efforts by the union to advance the professional issues of LPNs over time was instrumental in defeating a raid by the registered nurses union in B.C.

Delegates also marked a moment of silence for two B.C. ambulance paramedics, members of CUPE 873, who died in an accident October 19 when their ambulance left the road in a remote part of Vancouver Island.

Everyone in the CUPE family has been hit hard by this tragic news,” said Moist.