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Despite the efforts of CUPE’s 150,000 health care workers to highlight the risks associated with for-profit health care, medicare is under increasing threat. That’s the consensus of delegates attending Sunday’s health care sectoral meeting.

Delegates identified these key forces threatening medicare: a well-organized and well-funded lobby pushing for-profit health care, the recent Chaoulli court decision in Quebec, and provincial governments determined to dismantle our public system.

Ontario Liberals have vowed to protect public health care but in the last month alone they announced 11 new P3 hospitals, Ontario delegates said.

In B.C., where more than 8,000 hospital workers’ jobs were privatized, CUPE’s Hospital Employees’ Union has now organized many of the affected workers. But wages are still low and many have no pension plan or benefits.

Understaffing and workload are priority issues in B.C. and Saskatchewan, delegates said. Low staffing levels are hurting workers and compromising patient care there.

CUPE’s national health care issues committee introduced an ambitious two-year plan to fight health care privatization and strengthen health care workers’ collective bargaining power. The committees proposed national strategy includes:

  • Campaigns to achieve minimum standards of care in long-term care and community home care;
  • Working with other unions to demand increased federal funding for health care and to create a pharmacare program;
  • Participating in legal actions necessary to defeat new threats to public health care;
  • Support media campaigns in defense of medicare, including a tour of experts to heighten the debate;
  • Support for action on health care-acquired infections calling for mandatory reporting of superbugs, increased levels of cleaning staff, a review of cleaning and infection protocols, and a ban on the contracting out of cleaning.