Part 2, special report:
It is as Canadian as the prairie fields where it was born. But years of government mismanagement, runaway technological costs, and, most of all, the predatory interests of big business who see nothing but a cash cow to be milked are threatening to destroy what we have held to be a basic human right in Canada for many years: public health care.
Fortunately, we have an opportunity to save it: the Romanow Commission is currently studying the future of Canadian health care, and will be making its recommendations later this year. Cross-Canada hearings by the former Saskatchewan NDP premier have already begun, with the expected representations being made by interested parties on both sides of the issue, public or private (or some nature of blending the two). Unions are being actively encouraged through federations of labour to make representations whenever possible, and some have also chosen to hold public rallies in conjunction with the hearings.
On the down side, a number of enemies of public health care have tried to pre-empt the Romanow Commission, by issuing their own “studies”, drawing the conclusions they wish to see Romanow make. Some provinces have even begun making unilateral changes that will ultimately damage public health care, and have even, in the case of British Columbia, cost thousands of jobs – including those of UFCW Canada Local 1518 members – that had been dedicated to caring for others.
We don’t have to sit back and wait for the results of the Romanow study. Every one of us can participate through the commission’s web site, at www.healthcarecommission.ca, then look for the “Consultations Workbook” to fill out the survey. It takes only about 15 minutes.
There are limitations to this workbook survey, but it does provide a chance for every one to have a voice in Romanow’s findings. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted.
More than 2,000 members of UFCW Canada Local 1400 have returned to work with an improved settlement after a 15-day strike against Westfair Foods locations in Saskatchewan. The strike affected Real Canadian Superstore and Wholesale Club stores. Another 1,000 members at 20 Urban Extra Foods stores, another Westfair chain, accepted an earlier proposal.
The province-wide strike at 14 locations began on March 26, and the Loblaws-owned company resorted to using scab labour to keep stores open. In southern Saskatchewan, to further limit democratic picket lines, the company sought and won a court injunction on Good Friday that moved picket lines off company property at Regina and Yorkton locations.
In Alberta, meanwhile, members of UFCW Canada Local 401 have voted in favour of strike action at nine Superstore locations in the Edmonton area, pending the results of further negotiations. A strike there could commence with 72-hours notice. The local has undertaken a province-wide advertising campaign, and launched a new web site specifically for Superstore members.
UFCW Canada Director Michael Fraser recently presented a brief to the federal government’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Addressing the committee’s meeting in Napanee, Ont. on March 12, Brother Fraser spoke about the new face of the Canadian agricultural industry, and how agribusiness has undermined the family farm with the growth of corporate farming in Canada.
“The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to strike down the Ontario law denying agricultural workers the right to join unions has given unions, particularly UFCW Canada, the right and responsibility of being a stakeholder in Canadian farming and agriculture.”
Director Fraser’s report will now be presented to the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farming.
More: Diane Kalen, UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada Local 501 members who work as grounds keepers and chalet workers at the Elm Ridge Country Club in Île Bizard in greater Montréal were locked out by their employer on March 11. The 45 workers, whose first contract had expired at the end of December, had voted a week prior to continue negotiations.
More: Yvon Bellemare, UFCW Canada Local 501
Workers at the Ostrander Funeral Home in Tillsonburg, Ont. have voted unanimously to join UFCW Canada Local 175. The vote was held on February 27, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board certified the union as bargaining agent on March 5.
The Ostrander workers join about 50 members of Local 175 in the funeral industry, working at 10 other locations in Toronto and Hamilton.
More: Cheryl Mumford, UFCW Canada Local 175, www.ufcw175.com
A substantial wage increase was one of the highlights of the new collective agreement ratified in March by members of UFCW Canada Local 832 at Naleway Foods in Winnipeg. Wages will increase by $2.75 per hour over the life of the agreement. In addition, the night shift premium will rise from 25¢ to 40¢ over the same period. A first for the Naleway members are pension and vision care plans, while their dental plan is now in the union’s trusteed plan.
More: Don Keith, UFCW Canada Local 832, www.ufcw832.mb.ca
UFCW Canada Local 1288P members who work at Hub Meat Packers in Moncton, N.B. (part of the Maple Leaf chain) will soon be able to keep up with news in the workplace with their own newsletter. Called The Voice, the newsletter is being launched to keep the 450 day-shift and 300 night-shift workers informed and updated on union activities.
More: Rick DeSaulniers, UFCW Local 1288P
Following a settlement of the strike at Thrifty Car Rentals in Toronto, a boycott against the facility has been ended.
More: Wayne Hanley, UFCW Canada Local 175, www.ufcw175.com
Our Times – Canada’s independent labour magazine – welcomes submissions to its short-story series called Working for a Living. You can write about what your job is like: what you do, what you see, and how you feel about it. Or you can write about what your job was like, before you quit, got laid-off or fired, or retired.
Send your story (up to 2,000 words) for consideration to: Our Times/Working for a Living, PO Box 182, New Glasgow NS B2H 5E2, or email to [email protected]. For stories accepted for publication, Our Times pays a $100 honorarium.
Brother Gilbert started his union career as a shop steward in what was then The Loblaws Workers Council at a store in Chatham, Ont. Recognizing the need for a stronger union, he led the council into becoming the 22,000-member Local 1000A of UFCW Canada. President of that local for 30 years, Dan is now Executive Assistant to the Director of UFCW Canada.
The figures below provide a snapshot at 10-year interval of sources of Canadian health care funding and how money was sepnt. In this study, “public” includes provincial and federal government expenditure, as well as social-security institutions such as workers’ compensation and the Québec Drug Insurance Fund; “private” includes sources of revenue such as both for-profit and not-for-profit insurance companies, and out-of-pocket expenditures.