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Election of new CMA president signals increased push for private health care

The election of Dr. Brian Day as Canadian Medical Association president signals an increased CMA push for the privatization of Canada’s public health care system.

We respect the CMA’s election process and congratulate Dr. Day,” said CUPE National President Paul Moist. “But we are concerned that his promotion of private health care and the CMA’s ongoing push for for-profit medicine will undermine medicare.”

Day, who co-founded the private Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, has been an enthusiastic advocate of privatized health care, public-private partnerships and the contracting out of health care workers.

The only time hospital wait times have gone down is when governments have provided the resources the public system needs to function properly,” Moist said. “Cut back the public system, deny it the ability to handle patients’ needs, and wait times go up.”

CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh was also alarmed by the news of Day’s election, calling a “bad omen” for the future of our public health care system.

The CMA has chosen a controversial privatization pusher who owns three private clinics in his home province of British Columbia, is the medical director of Canada’s largest private hospital in Vancouver and is one of Canada’s most outspoken critics of public health care,” Cavanagh said. “By electing Dr. Day, the CMA appears to be sending Canadians a very strong message about where it stands in the health care debate.”

Federal Court orders sign language services for Canadians with hearing loss

In a landmark ruling, the Federal Court of Canada has ordered the federal government to make professional sign language interpretation services available on request when providing services to people who are deaf or affected by hearing loss.

I applaud this ruling as a major step in the right direction,” said National President Paul Moist. “It sets a precedent and sends a strong message, not just to the federal government, but to all levels of government and to society in general. This is about access and equality for everyone.”

As Canadians, deaf persons are entitled to be full participants in the democratic process and functioning of government,” Justice Richard Mosley wrote in his decision. “It is fundamental to an inclusive society that those with disabilities be accommodated when interacting with the institutions of government.”

Among other things, Justice Mosley’s decision states that “professional sign language interpretation services are to be provided and paid for by the government of Canada, upon request, where a deaf or hard of hearing person receives services from or participates in programs administered by the government of Canada and the nature of communication between the government and the person requires such services.”

Justice Mosely also ordered the federal government to provide visual interpretation services whenever it “engages in public or private consultations with non-governmental organizations in the development of policy and programs in which the deaf and hard of hearing Canadians have identifiable interests and the nature of communications requires such services.”

This is definitely an improvement over the Eldridge ruling,” said Sheryl Burns, a member of CUPE’s national people with disabilities working group who is hard of hearing. Burns was referring to a 1998 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that stated that deaf or hard of hearing persons must be provided with the services of an interpreter when seeking medical treatment.

The interesting thing is that in 1997-98, the federal government spent $108,000 on sign language translation and visual interpretation,” Burns noted. “That was their peak spending year, and it’s peanuts. They’ve cut back since then. They probably spent more in court than they have in providing these services.”

The Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) filed the case on behalf of James Roots, Gary Malkowski, Barbara Lagrange and Mary Lou Cassie. Lawyers argued that the four individuals were denied the services of sign language interpreters during the policy development process. They also lost opportunities to secure contracts with the federal government and were unable to participate in the Statistics Canada labour force survey, the court was told.

The CAD, which represents 300,000 deaf people across the country, hailed the decision as a major breakthrough.

Settlement at Livingstone Range may avert strike

A deal has been reached which may avert a strike at the Livingstone Range School Division. The deal was put to a vote on Aug. 24, 2006.

CUPE represents more than 100 non-teaching staff at the school district. The union and the school district have been negotiating all summer. In June, employees voted 88 per cent to strike. The school district responded by locking out employees, although that was done when most employees were laid off.

If our members decide to support the deal, it’s back to school as usual, and that’s what everyone wants,” said CUPE Alberta president D’Arcy Lanovaz.

Details of the deal will not be released until it was presented to members this week.

Rollin’ up the rim at UBC

The first unionized Tim Hortons on the West Coast will soon be serving up the double-doubles at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

CUPE food services workers have so much to be proud of,” said Colleen Garbe, president of CUPE 116, the local that will represent the coffee shop workers. “It is the quality of their work, so appreciated by both the student body and the surrounding population, that made unionized doughnuts a reality on campus.”

The UBC Tim’s opens in early November. Recent television ads promoting the famous coffee-and-doughnut shop on campus appear to reflect some of the positive aspects of working on campus, including good benefits and a break on tuition, among others.

Other unionized Tim Hortons are located on university campuses in Ontario.

HEU bargaining committee rejects Compass’ monetary package

Compass’ long-awaited monetary package was a severe disappointment for members of the British Columbia Hospital Employees’ Union working at the B.C. Cancer Agency, Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and Sunnyhill Hospital for Children in the Provincial Health Services Authority.

HEU’s Compass/PHSA bargaining committee rejected the below-industry-standard package as it would see the majority of members’ wages inch up from $10.25 an hour to $11.21 an hour over the life of a three-year contract.

Compass’ wage package is not only well below the industry standard, it’s considerably less than competitors Sodexho and Aramark pay the 2,500 HEU members who work in Lower Mainland health facilities,” said HEU bargaining spokesperson Heather Compton.

Some progress was made on non-monetary issues, but not as much as our PHSA bargaining committee would have liked. It’s slow going with Compass,” Compton said.

A mediator is assisting HEU and Compass in talks for first collective agreements covering workers in both the PHSA and the Vancouver Island Health Authority. HEU members who make up the VIHA bargaining committee attended the PHSA negotiations when Compass tabled its monetary package.

Compton says the union wanted the VIHA bargaining committee there as Compass’ monetary position would likely be the same when talks resume for the company’s workers in that health authority on August 31. The union expects Compass to put forward a monetary package at that time.

About 950 HEU members work for Compass providing housekeeping and food services throughout the health authorities’ facilities.

CUPE saddened by death of spouse of former national secretary-treasurer

CUPE wishes to express its condolences to former national secretary-treasurer Geraldine McGuire on the death of her husband Roderick Ross Thomson.

Rod Thomson was a great trade unionist and social justice advocate,” noted National President Paul Moist. “On behalf of our entire union, we offer our sincere condolences to Geraldine and to Rod’s family and many friends.”

Thomson was born in Calgary in 1936 and moved to British Columbia 10 years later. He had a rewarding and productive career as a construction millwright and was a proud member and officer of the International Workers Association, Local 1-80.

He served as an officer on the Victoria and District Labour Council for more than 25 years. He was a dedicated, gentle family man, known for his love of animals and passion for gardening.

In accordance with Thomson’s wishes, there will be no funeral service. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

August P3 Alert available online soon

Watch for the August P3 Alert online newsletter at cupe.ca/p3alerts. Among the top stories: The Canadian Medical Association elects a private health care advocate; two federal government consultants run amuck in London; privatization by stealth at Bowmanville, Ontario, hospital; Saudia airlines asks its employees what they think about going private; and Japan’s ambitious post office reforms.