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Drop the political games around wait times for health care

CUPE concurs with most of the major findings of a report on wait times by federal adviser Dr. Brian Postl.

Wait time problems are system problems, so we need to solve them within the public system,” said National President Paul Moist, echoing Dr. Postl. “Our members support sensible improvements within the public system and we hope the Conservative government is listening.”

Postl’s recently released Final Report of The Federal Advisor on Wait Times contains key recommendations that favour strengthening the public system over the quick fix of wait time “guarantees”.

The report calls for, among other things, ongoing research to support benchmarking and operational improvements; adopting modern management practices and innovations in health systems; encouraging more team-based care and fostering cultural change among health professionals and engaging in public education to support the transformation of the health care system.

The report also lists many examples of public sector innovation that are reducing wait times. It calls for gender-based analysis to see how men and women are affected differently by longer wait times, and draws attention to the problem of inadequate health human resources in the public system.

Disappointingly, the report includes the conditional use of private, for-profit health services as an option to reduce wait times. The evidence, however, clearly shows that private services cost more and deliver less. Worse, provincial governments are already not reporting on the scope, number and cost of for-profit services. These realities undermine any “advantages” that might exist.

Moist noted that the Conservative government released the report late on Friday, June 30, just before the holiday weekend. The report does not endorse the idea of wait time “guarantees”, the only health care-related plank of the minority Conservative government’s election campaign.

The sensible, evidence-based recommendations in this report just don’t support the Conservative privatization agenda,” Moist said. “The Conservatives must drop the political games around wait times and commit to maintaining and improving our public health care system.”

Supreme Court: No change to RCMP municipal staff

It took 86 words and less than 90 minutes for the Supreme Court of Canada to put an end to a six-year old court case that, if successful, might have disrupted for years the lives of nearly 2,000 municipal employees across the country.

In a unanimous ruling that came June 23, the Court ended an application by the Public Service Alliance of Canada that might have forced hundreds of municipal workers to re-apply for their own jobs at local detachments of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and become federal employees.

Explaining the issue in a letter to CUPE members last year, National President Paul Moist wrote: “(PSAC) claimed that civilian employees providing support to the RCMP were federal civil servants. The federal government opposed PSAC’s claim.”

Approximately 185 municipalities across Canada have agreements with the federal government for the RCMP to provide police services in their communities. CUPE represents workers in about 95 of those communities, although it is unclear how many of our members might actually have been affected by the change.

Top N.S. health care unions file grievances over pension surplus

The four largest health care unions in Nova Scotia have filed grievances against their employers in acute care, long-term care and community services who belong to the provincial health sector pension plan. The grievances argue that the terms of their members’ contracts were changed when employers unilaterally used pension fund surpluses for their own benefit.

CUPE joined the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, the Nova Scotia Government Employees’ Union and the Canadian Auto Workers to let employers and the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations (NSAHO) know that they will be using every means possible to protect their members’ pension plan funds.

The four unions had announced that they will be bargaining jointly for pensions and health benefits in this round. The Service Employees International Union has joined the group in their fight for pension fairness. This is the first time the five unions have ever teamed up on a bargaining issue.

Use of the pension plan surplus is a major bone of contention with the unions. NSAHO’s own numbers show that since 1998, health care employers across the province have used tens of millions of dollars of the plan surplus to make their own contributions to the plan.

CUPE Local 774 rejects employer’s final offer

On Friday, June 30, striking CUPE Local 774 city workers in Abbotsford, B.C., voted more than two to one to reject their employer’s final offer.

Our members did the right thing today by rejecting an offer that the employer forced us to vote on,” CUPE Local 774 President Joe Rodrique said. “We need to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement.”

The employer used the labour code to force a final offer vote. About 70 per cent of voting members said no to the offer. “That sends a strong signal to the employer that it needs to come back to the table ready to bargain,” CUPE National Representative Al Ens said.

National President Paul Moist joined CUPE Local 774 members on the picket line July 7 to show his support. The workers began job action on June 26. Outstanding issues are wages, term of agreement and pay and job security for seasonal workers. The current collective agreement expired on December 31, 2004 and bargaining began in April 2005.

CUPE represents 463 workers who work in all areas of city operations including parks and recreation, sewer, water, fleet vehicle maintenance, city hall administration, taxation, bylaw enforcement, and fees and licences.

While many city services have been affected by the job action, those related to the safety and health of the public are being maintained.

Alberta senior’s lodge workers win by staying with CUPE

The 25 CUPE members at Wheatland Lodge senior’s facility in Calgary have rejected raid attempts by the Alberta Union of Public Employees and won a better contract as a result.

The employees were targets of an AUPE raiding campaign. AUPE officials met with some employees of Wheatland Lodge and circulated petitions in the workplace. Not enough signatures were collected to force a vote. With the ratification of a new contract, the period in which AUPE can legally conduct a raid ended.

This is the fifth time in two years AUPE has attempted a raid on CUPE,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz. “And in that time, with all the money and energy spent on unions fighting unions, only 19 members have switched sides.”

Raiding CUPE is a waste of time and resources,” he added. “Our two unions need to work together for the sake of our members.”

By staying with CUPE, Wheatland Lodge employees got a two-year contract with a general wage increase of 3 per cent each year, improvements in weekend and evening wages, a commitment to job evaluation and casual wages equal to other employees.

Once again, CUPE has negotiated a good deal for members in the long-term care sector,” Lanovaz said. “The fact we have been getting such good contracts is a major factor in turning around the raiding situation with AUPE.”

CUPE files for conciliation with Cape Breton child care facility

After a year of trying to negotiate a first contract for employees at Jewels and Gems Day Care Centre in Glace Bay, N.S., CUPE has asked the Nova Scotia labour minister to appoint a conciliator.

The 11 members of CUPE Local 4735 have been extremely frustrated by their employer’s refusal to bargain even the simplest items,” said CUPE National Representative Jacquie Bramwell. “The employer’s position is status quo on wages, benefits and working conditions with the view there is no need to bargain.”

The union has had just two face-to-face meetings with the employer in the past year, and Bramwell charges that the employer has continually changed meeting dates or cancelled them, adding to the frustration.

There are 68 children at the centre. The unionized staff includes early childhood educators and a cook.

Parents asked to help avert school strike

CUPE is calling on parents to call trustees of the Livingstone Range School Division in Lethbridge, Alberta, and implore them to avert a strike in September.

We have two months to change the minds of the trustees,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz. “A strike will disrupt students and divide our communities.”

Lanovaz said trustees are trying to avoid scrutiny by claiming to have no power over negotiations. Lanovaz says trustees have all the authority they need.

Trustees can stop a strike. They can direct their highly paid, Edmonton-based negotiator to change positions on contracting out and casual employees. If they did that, we could get a deal in a day.”

$10,000 to help Java earthquake victims

CUPE National has donated $10,000 to OXFAM Canada to help victims of the devastating earthquake that hit Java at the end of May.

We appreciate that OXFAM Canada shares our vision for strong communities around the world and we give our donation in that spirit,” said a letter to the aid agency from National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux.

The powerful earthquake killed an estimated 5,800 people and injured more than 36,000 on the Indonesian island.