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Over 100 leaders of Ontario hospital locals, members of CUPEs Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), gathered in Toronto January 15 to chart a plan of action to fight Bill 8 legislation introduced by the McGuinty government that gives the health minister broad powers over hospital workers collective agreements.

Bill 8 essentially paves a legal path for the government to restructure Ontarios hospitals through privatization and contracting out of services.

We are on a collision course with this government on the issue of privatization of health care, says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

We wanted to believe that the Liberals were going to be different from the Tories, Hurley says. But when it comes to public health care, they are no different. Our meeting with Smitherman proves it.

In a January 13 meeting with CUPE, Ontario Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman as much as confirmed that his government intends to proceed with six more hospitals built through public-private partnerships (P3s).

National President Paul Moist was on hand to address the local leaders, pledging support for their fight against Bill 8 and P3 hospitals. We dont belong to CUPE to march backwards, he said.

Moist was joined by a member of CUPE 4266, representing Ottawas striking taxi dispatchers, who painted a picture of life for Canadas working poor that moved delegates and strengthened their resolve to fight for their working futures.

Local presidents poured over the contents of Bill 8 and decided unanimously to seek a mandate from their members to fight it. A campaign strategy was outlined that included member and public mobilization to ensure the bill does not become law.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions represents over 21,000 hospital workers in 80 hospitals.