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Good day Premier FordMy name is Kelly Dick, President of the Waterloo Region Labour Council. I am writing you this letter today to discuss the crisis we are facing with regards to COVID-19 in our long term care homes in this province and how this has affected the people in my community as well as my members and their families.I have 34,000 affiliated members from 26 different local unions. Some of my members work as PSW's, long term care staff and healthcare workers in various hospitals. The hardest hit sectors during this pandemic.I have heard as recently as this past Friday, that some LTC workers still don't have the proper PPE available to them each day when they start their shifts. Whether this is a supply issue or a supervisory decision in each LTC home, as we all know, this is the biggest issue when it comes to passing this virus on to other residents and other staff should a worker be exposed.Many of my members have in fact already contracted COVID-19 on the job because of these very same issues. They have been forced to self-isolate at home and have had to deal with the stresses of potentially bringing this virus home to their families. Many of these cases could have been avoided had they had access to the proper PPE and sufficient staff to deal with this crisis. Many of these workers are also among the lowest paid in the sector and have been classed as emergency essential workers, which makes it mandatory for these workers to show up each day, regardless of unsafe work conditions. There are cases right here in Waterloo Region where LTC facilities have in fact refused workers the proper PPE, have been told to bring in their own and even asked to wear the same PPE for multiple shifts and from patient to patient. Minister of Health, Christine Elliott has repeatedly said that there is enough PPE in each home and that if workers need PPE, which is clear that they all do, they shall have it. Unfortunately, even up to Friday, this simply isn't the case. Simply continuing a dialogue with these homes is clearly not working. Workers and seniors deserve better care and stricter safety measures in each home.Part of this problem points back to the lack of funding and deep cuts that have been implemented by every PC and Liberal government over the past 27 years. Another points directly to private LTC homes putting profits before the care of residents. As you have said in your updates, you really do see the cracks in the ship when a storm hits.Many reviews have already been done by previous governments on the subject of LTC with no definitive results or actions. Your government has again committed to doing an internal review, which further to my last comment, will most likely not provide answers to the questions which lead us to the problems we're currently facing and have been for many years, in our LTC system.From myself as the president, the Waterloo Region Labour Council and all of its affiliated members, we implore you and your government to open an independent public inquiry into the LTC crisis that has plagued this province for over a quarter century.We need to understand how our LTC system has gotten into such a state of crisis while leaving the finger pointing and blaming at the door, what steps we need to take to overhaul our current system so that residents and staff are no longer left in a vulnerable state and what role, if any, do private, for-profit long-term care homes have in our province going forward. It is very clear to the labour movement in this province, that for-profit LTC homes need the deepest inquiry. The highest percentage of deaths in this province due to COVID-19 have come out of our private LTC homes. For-profit LTC puts people's lives at risk, while putting profits and shareholders first. The labour movement will continue to fight for a publicly owned and operated LTC and healthcare system across this province. In light of COVID-19, this has become one of the highest priorities for us and our members. It is our ask that it be a priority for you also.If you are truly for the people as you continue to tell the people of this great province, then again, I ask you to order an independent public inquiry and not an internal review. We owe this to all of the families that have lost loved ones in our LTC homes. They are your people.Wishing you health and safety as we continue to move through this most difficult time.Peace and Solidarity,
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Nobody ever wanted or expected to find the world in the situation it is as we face perhaps one of the greatest challenges in over one-hundred years. Just over one-hundred years ago the world reeled after a devastating world war directly into an influenza pandemic that killed millions.
The front line shifted from the battlefront to places of care. One hundred years ago these places of care were not the places of care we see today where modern-day practices, emergency responders and skilled healthcare workers trained in these modern techniques save lives that a century ago would have been lost.
The frontline of today, not so often talked about, but as we have found out is every bit as critical to our survival, is populated by the services and people we too often have taken for granted. Grocery store staff, truck and transport drivers, convenience store staff, postal workers, bank and financial institution staff, internet service provider workers, utility workers, sanitation workers and so many more providing services that our lives would be impossible without.
Experiencing life in a COVID-19 shuttered workplace and talking about public services, Waterloo Regional Labour Council President Kelly Dick is hopeful of a change for the better that history aptly demonstrates often follows after humanity’s biggest challenges. Dick notes, “Watching both provincial and federal leaders, the tone has changed drastically from the polarizing rhetoric of the last four decades and in some cases the months immediately preceding our current crisis. Much of the rhetoric, until very recently manifested in vicious attacks on public service workers and the repeal of legislation that was put in place to protect the rights of all workers. To see the historically right-wing, anti-worker, pro-privatization, anti-union politicians dropping the vicious attack language and perhaps realizing that privatization will not stand up to the rigorous test of a national and international challenge is a hopeful moment in this rather dark time.”
Dick makes it clear that “she is no starry-eyed optimist, but perhaps this global challenge will bring us back to a place of compromise instead of destructive polarization. Compromise and a realization that we accomplish more together than apart which could lead us, like those before us, to the greatest period of prosperity in history, that period of about thirty or so years immediately following World War Two”.
“For over fifty years, the Waterloo Regional Labour Council has been the voice of workers in our community. The Council is fortunate to have all manner of public and private sector workers at our table. In looking back at these fifty-plus years, the Waterloo Region Labour Council and all of organized labour have consistently called for adequate funding of public services and a broadening of public services. As we progress through the COVID-19 crisis, holding the line in support of public services as much as possible, will show that organized labour and our progressive partners have been correct all along in that government tax cuts to corporations at the expense of public services has been a disaster waiting for time to show itself”.
“Members of the WRLC executive are actively speaking about the countless people working and supporting us in our communities in places like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, banks, etc that are greatly deserving of recognition and thanks for putting themselves on the frontlines to keep us going. The time has come for these workers to receive pay that will commensurate with their contribution to our communities. Perhaps the icing on the cake will come after we have come through the crisis that these very same workers will find their way towards union representation that will help them hold onto gains made in and as result of this pandemic, before the memory of our current crisis begins to fade. Perhaps when we do a deep dive, a very close analysis on what we did right, wrong or not at all after this pandemic is over, we will come out of this with a new perspective and new respect for those workers who, in times of calm and safety, are not deemed essential workers. This will be the ultimate test on capitalism as we know it. For it is the essential workers that are keeping people safe and fed. Not the CEO’s and the billionaires.”
Dick adds “Organized labour is a partner in getting all of us through this. And when all is said and done, organized labour will be there, as always, doing everything possible to secure adequate funding for our public services, healthcare and long term care workers, proper pay and protections for precarious, part-time and vulnerable workers and holding every level of government accountable to the people who put them in office.”
“Let each of us do what is required of us to get us safely through the COVID-19 crisis. Let us also do everything we can to support those supporting us and for those that need our help and support in our communities.” says Kelly Dick.
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We are proud to endorse Scott Hamilton - Ward 7, Cambridge in the extremely important Cambridge By-Election.
Scott truly epitomizes everything that the labour movement stands for and we know that he will represent his constituents extremely well by bringing a progressive voice to Cambridge Council!
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Actions you can take:
Most Ontarians do not support the drastic changes the government is making. Ontarians don’t want cuts and privatization. A Rapid Response Network is an organizing committee and rapid response team of labour and community activists that deliver prompt solidarity actions in response to cuts and privatization efforts by Doug Ford’s PC government.
The Waterloo Regional Labour Council is assisting in organizing our local Rapid Response Network and encourages our members to reach out if they are interested in helping us push back on the Ford Government's regressive actions!
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The Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario has issued an official boycott declaration of Canadian Niagara Hotels Inc. (CNH), effective immediately.
The boycott is in support of the workers at the Rainforest Café, who have been seeking a first collective agreement with their employer for over a year.
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Sunday, April 28, 2019 is the labour movement’s most solemn day. The International Day of Mourning remembers those workers killed or injured on the job while continuing to fight for improved safety in our workplaces. This year, our local labour groups and the Waterloo Regional Labour Council (WRLC) recognized the Day of Mourning together with the community at Victoria Park in Kitchener.
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Canada’s unions are proud that we’ve won health insurance coverage for many of our members. But we believe anyone with a health card should have coverage for the medicines they need. That’s why we’re working to win a universal prescription drug plan that covers everyone in Canada, regardless of their income, age or where they work or live.
The Unfinished Business of Medicare
Today, the only place where all Canadians are covered is in the hospital. The federal government covers the cost of prescription drugs for members of the Armed Forces and the RCMP, veterans and Indigenous people.
The provinces and territories all provide different coverage. Most subsidize the cost of medications for vulnerable Canadians like those over 65 and recipients of social assistance and disability benefits. Many also provide catastrophic coverage for those with astronomical medical costs.
But that still leaves one in five Canadians paying out of pocket for their medication because they either don’t have a prescription drug plan or have plans that don’t cover the cost.
By the Numbers
- About 8.4 million working Canadians don’t have prescription drug coverage.
- The less you earn at work, the less likely you are to have prescription drug coverage.
- Women and young workers are less likely to have the coverage they need.
- Even those with drug plans are paying ever-increasing co-payments and deductibles.
Pharmacare Makes Economic Sense
Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include a universal prescription drug plan. Instead, our multiple-payer system has resulted in the second highest prescription drug costs in the world next to the United States.
Our patchwork prescription drug system is inefficient and expensive. It has left Canadians with wildly varying prescription drug coverage and access. Many are paying different rates for the same medications.
We aren’t benefitting from the current system, but pharmaceutical and private insurance companies are. Pharmaceutical companies can charge higher prices for drugs because they sell to so many buyers. Private insurance companies benefit by charging employers, unions and employees to administer private drug insurance plans.
It’s time for Canada to catch up to our peers. It’s time to complete the unfinished business of our Medicare system with a universal prescription drug plan that will save money through bulk purchasing power.
In New Zealand, where a public authority negotiates on behalf of the entire country, a year’s supply of the cholesterol-busting drug Lipitor costs just $15 a year, compared to $811 in Canada.
That’s why Canada needs to combine the purchasing power of all Canadians under one plan. An annual investment of $1 billion by the federal government will mean Canadians save $7.3 billion a year on the medications they need.
Canadians Say “YES” to Pharmacare
An overwhelming majority – 91 percent – of Canadians believe our public health care system should include a universal prescription drug plan.
Several national health care commissions have recommended the same, along with the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Health Coalition, Council of Canadians and the Canadian Labour Congress.
Provincial leaders are signaling support too. The Ontario provincial government, for example, has announced a targeted Pharmacare program that will cover full prescription drug costs for anyone under the age of 25.
But patchwork measures aren’t enough. We need this federal government to commit to the implementation of a national, publicly-administered universal prescription drug plan for every Canadian, in every province and territory.
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