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Premier Wynne Prorogues the Legislature, Kills Long-Term Care Minimum Care Standards Bill

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Premier Kathleen Wynne visited the Lieutenant Governor General and revealed her government’s intention to prorogue the Ontario Legislature, ending this legislative session at 1:30 p.m today. This is a measure used to take all legislation off the table that the governing Liberal Party does not want to deal with prior to the election. It means that all Bills (pieces of legislation), motions, and petitions before the Legislature die and will have to be reintroduced in the next session. As MPPs are limited in the times and ways by which they can introduce legislation and motions, proroguing the Legislature clears the decks for the governing Liberals to try to control the agenda leading into the election, scheduled for June 7.

In so doing, Wynne has killed Bill 33, the long-term care homes legislation. This vital legislation, which would have brought in a 4-hour minimum care standard for long-term care homes’ (nursing homes) residents, had passed 2nd Reading in the Legislature and could have been passed in 3rd Reading prior to the election, if the Liberals truly supported it. (The Liberals supported the Bill through 1st and 2nd Reading, then sat on it and did not move it forward and have now killed it. Now, it will have to go back and start from the beginning again.)

NDP MPP France Gelinas has committed to re-introducing the Bill at the earliest opportunity. As the government will continue to sit, likely until mid-April, there will likely be a chance to get the new bill through 1st Reading and perhaps 2nd Reading, forcing the Liberals to have to debate the issue in the Legislature and to be accountable for it.

For background info on Bill 33 click here: http://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca/index.php/call-to-action-take-these-actions-to-win-improved-long-term-care-in-ontario-asap-pass-bill-33/

Former Health Minister Eric Hoskins, prior to leaving his position, committed to bringing in minimum care standards but the measures he was considering were not spelled out. We will be holding Kathleen Wynne to this commitment throughout the election. Eric Hoskins has now been replaced with Helena Jazcek as Health Minister.

The Conservatives supported Bill 33 through 1st and 2nd Reading. This was great news, but we are concerned because their platform currently includes a frightening $6 billion in public service cuts (and would almost certainly impact health care badly). New PC Leader Doug Ford says he is writing a new platform. We will push to see that it includes a better plan for funding health care, including public hospitals, long-term care and home care.

Financial Accountability Office Reports Health Care Funding Must Improve or Services Will be Cut

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Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, an Office of the Legislature that provides scrutiny over fiscal (budget) matters, reported yesterday that the province’s planned health care funding is too low to meet population need. The FAO said the drivers of annual health-sector spending — the aging and growing population, and inflation — will grow by an average of 4.3 per cent annually, considerably more than the government’s planned 2.9 per cent growth in spending on existing programs.

“Unless the province can find significant efficiencies in the health sector, additional spending will be required in order to avoid reductions in health-care access or quality in the coming years,” said FAO chief financial analyst Jeffrey Novak.

Ontario’s new Health Minister responded yesterday but did not provide any concrete details of what they plan. In a statement to the media, Helena Jazcek is quoted as saying: “We need to be responsive to families that have struggled with access to care by putting patients first….That is why we are making a deliberate choice to run a deficit, so that we can invest more in health care, hospitals, home care, mental health and long term care.”

The Ontario Health Coalition is asking for 5.2 per cent funding increase for hospitals to deal with the province’s hospital crisis. Funding is needed to restore beds and services to address the grave problems of patients on stretchers in hallways for days unable to get into overcrowded hospital wards; closed operating rooms and cancelled surgeries; and the closures of wards, clinics, and entire small and rural hospitals. Currently, the Liberal government’s plan is to increase funding in next year’s budget and then reduce it again the year after the election. The NDP has been advocating vociferously to stop the hospital cuts and closures and deal with the overcrowding crisis. So far, their commitment is to meet population growth/inflation and the”unique needs of communities” but we have not seen a concrete number yet. The Conservatives are writing a new platform under Doug Ford. The current platform called for billions in public service cuts without specifying where they would fall, but almost certainly impacting health care negatively. To date, Ford has not said much about hospitals, only that he wants to talk with nurses and teachers. We will be pushing for commitments that will actually mean improvements for Ontarians as the provincial election nears.

Federal Government Backing Off Full Public Pharmacare: Health Coalitions Push for Plan for All Canadians

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Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins left his job to work with the federal government to establish a national pharmacare plan to expand public health insurance in Canada to cover drugs. Or so we thought. But at the end of February, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau started backing away from a full plan for drug coverage. According to the Toronto Star, ” There will be no pharmacare “plan,” he said on Wednesday, but instead a pharmacare “strategy” that “deals with the gaps,” is “fiscally responsible” and “doesn’t throw out the system that we currently have”, he said. Note: we do not currently have any system at all and many Canadians suffer massive costs for drugs when faced with serious illness. This has long been a key issue for which Health Coalitions across the country have advocated.

Canada is the only country with a public health care system that does not have a national public drug plan for all.  Polls have repeatedly shown that Canadians are in favour of such a plan. As well, studies have proven that a single drug plan covering everyone would save up to $10.7 billion dollars per year by negotiating lower drug prices and ending payments to insurance companies. The Liberals’ plans would forgo those savings.

Health Coalitons across Canada are pushing back. Currently the Ontario Health Coalition (and other provincial and national health coalitions too) is on tour with the Canadian Labour Congress, holding town hall meetings across our province to call for a national drug coverage program: pharmacare for all. For dates/locations: http://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca/index.php/action-update-pharmacare-ontario-tour/

Unifor Six Minute Challenge

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The long term care sector in Ontario is at a crisis point. Ongoing budgetary cuts, combined with short staffing and more complex patient needs mean that residents are not getting the care that they need.

Did you know that in many long term care facilities, personal support workers have only six minutes in the morning to prepare residents for breakfast?

Unifor is proposing a six minute challenge – can you get ready in six minutes in the morning? Give it a try! Then challenge your MPP and let them know that they need to support four hours of direct, hands on care per resident, every single day.

The union is advocating for an evidence-based, minimum, measurable and enforceable standard of care within long term care homes. This includes a legislated daily standard of direct care of four hours per resident – as included in Bill 33 ‘A Time to Care Act.’

Currently, there is no minimum standard of daily care. Approximately 78,000 Ontarians live in long term care homes, most of who are over 85 years old and have mobility issues, dementia, and complex medical needs.

Unifor is urging all political parties to support four hours of minimum daily care in long term care homes, the integration of front-line workers into the implementation of the new Aging with Confidence: Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors,’ as well as measures for accountability by nursing home operators to be included in the new regulations.

http://www.unifor.org/en/take-action/campaigns/care-ontario-seniors

www.unifor.org/#6minchallenge

Unifor women lead our movement

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Each and every day, the women of Unifor are building a movement and resisting in the streets, at the ballot box, and at the bargaining table. When women work collectively, across our diversities, we are a force that makes change.

The leadership that drives this change within Unifor are the three Regional Directors. Joie Warnock, Western Regional Director, Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director and Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director, serve as the fearless, bold leadership that all members of Unifor look to for direction and expertise in the fight for progressive change for all workers. On International Women’s Day we celebrate their daily actions and commitment to build our movement and make our union strong.

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Save Canadian News! Sign the Petition!

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Canadian media is under attack.

US tech giants Google and Facebook now dominate the digital advertising market in Canada – taking all of the advertising dollars that Canadian media outlets rely upon to provide news to Canadians.

Big Canadian ISP companies make money on every byte of data for the news, information and entertainment consumed by Canadians, but share none of it with Canadian news outlets and other Canadian content creators.

Canadian news outlets are being forced to shut down due to lack of funding. Over 30 local TV stations are set to shut down in the next four years, while newspapers and online news websites are in even worse shape!

Sign in here

Unifor members gather to lobby B.C. government

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VICTORIA—Unifor activists will present policy proposals on workplace health and safety reforms, economic security for women, and progressive labour law amendments during meetings this week in Victoria.

“Last spring, British Columbians voted for change. There is no time to waste when it comes to making workplaces safer and restoring workers’ basic rights,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Unifor says the former government stripped B.C.’s most vulnerable workers of rights that left exploitation and wage theft virtually un-policed. Re-establishing clear standards with swift enforcement will be a priority for the union in the months ahead.

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U.S. takes Canadian steel and aluminum as NAFTA hostage

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Round seven of NAFTA renegotiations ended in Mexico City on March 5 with the American government holding Canada’s steel and aluminum sectors hostage in an effort to extort a deal.

“The U.S. is using Canada’s steel and aluminum industries and workers as NAFTA bargaining chips,” said National President Jerry Dias. “I’m encouraged to see that Canada has taken a firm stance against this trade blackmail.”

At a joint press conference with her Mexican and U.S. counterparts Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told media that Canada would view any tariffs on steel or aluminum as unacceptable.

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Unifor urges Nova Scotia to pass domestic violence leave

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HALIFAX – Unifor is urging all members of the Nova Scotia legislature to pass an NDP private member’s bill that will ensure paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

“Unifor has made protected leave for victims of domestic violence a priority at many collective bargaining tables and in our political activism work across the country,” said Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director. “We are pleased the NDP has tabled this important bill and we strongly encourage the other parties understand that job protection and paid leave will remove a major barrier for women escaping domestic and intimate partner violence.”

According to a study done by Western University researchers, 80% of Domestic Violence victims report that their work performance was negatively affected. Absenteeism and poor work performance can leave victims vulnerable to discipline and even job loss.

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Ruling upholds ban on random testing

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FORT MCMURRAY—The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld an injunction on random drug and alcohol testing of Suncor employees in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

“There is no evidence that random testing improves safety, which is why Unifor is committed to more reliable methods to keep our members safe on the job while respecting their dignity,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Without violating workers’ basic rights, high levels of workplace safety with education and prevention can be achieved.”

The injunction was granted at Unifor Local 707A’s request on December 15, 2017. Unifor has filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold an arbitration board’s ban on random testing. The union says random testing violates the fundamental rights of workers to privacy, respect, bodily integrity, and dignity.

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Trilateral solidarity at NAFTA talks

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In a show of trilateral solidarity unions from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada met today in Mexico City to share strategies on raising labour conditions for workers in the NAFTA countries.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that workers have an equal standard of living in all three countries,” National President Jerry Dias told the labour leaders. “There is a lot of work ahead of us. Unifor is here to find out what we can do to help so we can move forward as a progressive trade movement.”

As Round 7 of NAFTA renegotiations continue in Mexico City the unions agreed on a Trilateral Declaration with a commitment to build a common agenda to defend the interests of workers.

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Workers at KIA Longueuil vote in new agreement, ending lock-out

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Local 4511 members at KIA Longueuil voted 88 per cent in favour of a new tentative agreement, bringing an end to a dispute that has dragged on since September 2017.

The back-to-work protocol calls for the recall of three employees on March 19, with the remaining employees going back to work on March 26.

“We’re very relieved to have reached a settlement that is acceptable to all parties. To their great credit, our members maintained their resolve throughout this dispute,” said Serge Dupont, assistant to the Quebec Director.

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