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Put divisions aside and protect public health care, CUPE tells premiers

CUPE is calling on provincial premiers to endorse the Final Report of the Federal Advisor on Wait Times, push for a national pharmacare program and stop being a house divided on a progressive equalization formula.

It is essential the premiers prioritize the public delivery of health care and the creation of a national pharmacare program,” said National President Paul Moist. “CUPE calls on the premiers to endorse Dr. Brian Postl’s wait times report. Further, we call on the Harper government to retain Dr. Postl as the federal adviser on wait times and to give him a mandate to oversee the implementation of his recommendations.”

The government released Postl’s report on June 30. The comprehensive study contained recommendations for lowering health care wait times throughout Canada, not through “wait time guarantees” but by improving the public health care system.

Moist is attending a health care conference organized by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions to coincide with the premiers’ Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland, this week.

The premiers should come together to renew their commitment to a strong country through a progressive equalization formula,” Moist said. “Instead, division among them only creates space for unilateral action by Prime Minister Harper, who has a strong privatization agenda.”

Child care: Premiers receive 85-foot-long petition

Mounties on horseback watched a growing crowd outside the premiers’ meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland, this week. People were gathering to support a petition demanding a national child care program.

CUPE flags fluttered in a show of strong support for the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC). The group presented its petition – containing 53,000 signatures and measuring 85 feet long – to the prime minister and the premiers.

National President Paul Moist addressed the crowd of mothers and children. “A deal is a deal and the premiers should be united in their case for the Harper federal government to reinstate the signed agreements with provinces to provide a universal child care program,” he said.

The Harper government has already dropped $3 billion dollars earmarked for child care,” he noted. “Women are the primary care-givers for child care, yet over 80 per cent of women between the ages of 20 and 44 work outside the home. They need and want comprehensive child care and early childhood learning programs for their children. These programs also strengthen our economy and our communities.”

Marching for peace in the Middle East

CUPE members joined thousands in marches across Canada last weekend calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

In Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and other cities, diverse communities came together to call for the end of Israeli army and Hezbollah attacks on civilians.

CUPE members marched across the country. On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, about 1,400 demonstrators, mainly from Ottawa’s large Lebanese community, slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his position on the crisis.

The crisis is entering its third week, with no signs of abating. This week, a Canadian United Nations peacekeeper was killed along with three others in an Israeli air strike. On the Lebanese side, Israeli military attacks have killed over 380 civilians, including many women and children. Infrastructure has been destroyed and a humanitarian crisis is well underway, with almost a quarter of the population now displaced.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah rockets have pounded houses, hospitals and other non-military targets indiscriminately in northern Israeli cities and towns. So far, about 42 Israelis have perished, including about 20 soldiers.

In addition, the death toll in Palestine continues to rise. More than 100 Palestinians have died in the Gaza strip since June.

National President Paul Moist sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressing his concern over the diplomatic breakdown and escalating hostilities in the region.

As president of Canada’s largest trade union, I write to express my growing concern about the escalation of violence in Gaza, Lebanon and Israel and to ask you to change your current position on the conflict,” he wrote.

What is required urgently is a balanced response that will lead immediately to a negotiated cease-fire. The longer you postpone this call, the more the violence escalates and the closer the world moves to the brink of all-out war. I therefore urge you to support an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East.”

CUPE in court to win casual workers the right to unionize

More than three years after commencing proceedings to obtain rights for casual workers in New Brunswick, CUPE is having its day in court.

We spent many months gathering information and testimonies from casual workers, which have been working for the government for years without getting any rights such as equal wages, benefits and pension”, said Daniel Légère, President of CUPE NB.

Under the New Brunswick Public Service Labour Relations Act, casuals in the public service are not defined as employees. Although many carry almost a full workload and have been working in the public service for years, they do not enjoy the same rights and protection as other government employees.

CUPE NB, the New Brunswick Union, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 37, launched their case after the provincial government refused to change the law.

In the spring of 2001, the United Nations International Labour Organization ruled that the government of New Brunswick was violating international labour provisions regarding the right of casual workers”, explained Légère. “Since then, we have unsuccessfully tried to convince the government to recognize these workers.”

Justice Paulette Garnett of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton has 90 days to render her decision.

O’Neill offers to help end Abbotsford strike

The president of CUPE BC is stepping forward with an offer to help end a month-long dispute between municipal workers and the City of Abbotsford.

Barry O’Neill has offered his assistance to resolve the impasse between the City and members of CUPE Local 774, following the employer’s announcement earlier this week that it would not agree to mediation.

It is unfortunate that the proposal to send this dispute to a third party mediator was rejected by the employer,” said O’Neill. “But regardless of why that happened, the people of Abbotsford expect negotiations to move forward. We all owe it to the community to reach a speedy resolution.”

O’Neill said the two parties are “not far apart” and that a solution could be reached within days. Given there are relatively few issues still on the table, popular summer community events need not be hurt by the dispute if both sides can reach a positive result.

I have spoken with the CUPE local and informed them that I will be there day and night with community leaders and whoever else might be interested in bringing this dispute to some closure,” said O’Neill. “In that regard, I’ve already had a number of calls from senior’s groups as well as others with concerns.”

CUPE Local 774 members began job action on June 26 after more than a year of bargaining. Outstanding issues include wages, the length of the contract and job security. The 463 members work in parks and recreation, sewer, water, city vehicle maintenance, city hall administration, taxation, bylaw enforcement, and fees and licenses.

Livingstone Range workers serve strike notice after employer lockout

Livingstone Range School Division workers reluctantly served strike notice this week, following an employer lockout notice.

The employer escalated this conflict, forcing our members into a strike position when we were prepared to continue negotiating for a fair settlement,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz.

Lanovaz indicated that the local is not setting up picket lines. The vast majority of CUPE Local 2133’s workers are off on summer break.

CUPE has been negotiating a contract for about 110 custodial, secretarial, and other school support workers since June 2005. The union is asking trustees to limit the use of contractors and casual employees in the school system.

Lanovaz added that CUPE is prepared to meet with the employer at any time. “We’d rather start the school year with a fair settlement for essential school services,” he said.

Livingstone trustees could have easily diffused the situation by becoming more involved in the process from the beginning. Instead, they’re choosing to spend thousands of dollars on Edmonton-based management consultants to do the negotiating for them – ducking responsibility and putting school support services in jeopardy.”

Ambulances turned away from Montreal-area hospital

A Montreal-area hospital has been told by the local health and social services agency that it can no longer accept emergency patients arriving by ambulance.

The St-Joseph de Lachine Hospital received a letter this week informing staff that they may no longer admit patients who arrive by ambulance, except in the case of scheduled, inter-hospital transfers. The reason given by the agency was that the emergency room had been receiving a disproportionate number of “unstable” patients.

An advisory committee appointed by the provincial health minister has been reviewing the hospital.

The emergency room won’t accept ambulances, but a patient can go there by taxi,” said Christiane Laberge, president of the hospital support staff union, which is affiliated with CUPE. “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. (Health Minister) Philippe Couillard established a committee to look at the future of this hospital, but the agency seems to have already made its decision.”

Closure of Antigonish x-ray department “preventable, unacceptable”

Karen MacKenzie, President of CUPE Local 2525 and a diagnostic imaging technologist, says the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority (GASHA) should have acted sooner and worked harder to avoid a closure of the x-ray department at St. Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish, NS.

The x-ray department closed this weekend because there were no x-ray diagnostic services at St. Martha’s, the area’s main hospital, from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday. Patients had to make their way to the hospital in Pictou for any ailments that required an x-ray.

”They are playing Russian roulette with the lives of Nova Scotians”, says MacKenzie. “What if there had been a motor vehicle accident and they had to go the extra 40 minutes to the hospital in Pictou? The public deserves better service than this.”

She adds, “if (GASHA) really wanted to keep the x-ray department staffed and open, they could have. There are ways to put staffing in place but it requires organization and money. They are not willing to do it. They are putting saving money ahead of saving people’s lives. This has got to stop.”

MacKenzie says front-line staff have been telling the Minister of Health for five years about shortages in the diagnostic department, but have been consistently ignored.

I want to know what steps they have been taking to solve this crisis? We haven’t seen any recruitment action, and there have been no postings on health care websites.”

It seems as if the government wants to starve the public system of the human resources needed, then point to that very system and say it doesn’t work, paving the road for private health care,” says CUPE NS President Danny Cavanagh. “That is unacceptable.”

Making the difference at Workers Out!

CUPE members and staff, including the National Pink Triangle Committee, showed their pride this week at the Workers Out! Making the Difference conference in Montreal.

Workers Out! hopes to develop an international strategic plan to help unions worldwide in taking up the struggle for LGBT rights in the workplace and in society.

The event is part of a broader conference on LGBT human rights, which in turn is a major component of the 1st World Outgames, an international gathering of LGBT athletes and artists and their supporters taking place in Montreal at the same time. The Pink Triangle Committee held its caucus on the opening morning of the conference. National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux addressed the group. Three young members of CUPE Local 391, Vancouver public libraries, have been maintaining a blog, or web log, on their experiences at the conference and Games.

Workers Out! was organized by labour organizations in Canada and Quebec, including the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec.