Health Care Workers Fight for Immediate and Long-Term Demands, Against the Wrecking of the Sector

Jeff Begley —

Several things show that the health care network is at the point of breakdown.

One example is the significant crisis in the ability to retain and hire staff. In addition, given the labor shortage, those who remain are more stressed and end up in situations where more needs to be given. In the last four years, there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of people on short-term disability insurance, which can be up to two years. At the same time, there is very little hiring being done in the health care sector because the conditions have become extremely bad. People are asking themselves why they would go to work in the public sector when it looks so chaotic. We are no longer able to hold onto our people. On average, new hires stay in the sector a maximum of three years. It was not like that before. Attendants with 20 to 25 years of experience were common in the past. There are still some, for example, those who must stay and work until retirement. If they had other choices, there are many who would leave. But there are more and more young people who start and then say after a short period of time that it is enough, and begin looking for something else.

The shortage of workers in the health care sector is very real and it does not affect only nurses and attendants. It also affects people who work in administrative, professional and maintenance positions, and skilled workers. It is clear that there is a direct link between this shortage and the deterioration of conditions.

At the FSSS-CSN, we said that at the same time that permanent solutions are needed to repair the damage of the four years of Liberal Party rule and the Barrette reforms, we need immediate measures to ensure the retention of the staff still in the sector. That is why we are asking for an immediate investment of $50 million while we are preparing for the next round of negotiations and for permanent solutions. The next round of negotiations is in 2020. If we wait until then before taking action the situation will continue to worsen and the public health care system will be totally wrecked.

Among other things, we must inject money immediately to replace people who are on short-term disability insurance, and stop harassing them so that they come back to work before they are healed. Since there is currently a significant increase in the number of people on short-term disability, they are being harassed to return to work and they become sick again a few months later. We are ready to look at the application of emergency measures in different types of jobs, knowing that this is not a permanent solution.

We are currently in the process of preparing consultations with our members. We strongly believe that our members are able to identify solutions, and we will be consulting widely with all of them. The people who work and operate the system against all odds, have solutions to the problems of the sector and will be involved in identifying them so that this is reflected at the bargaining table.

Among other things is the health and safety of our members. Our demand is for the health and social services sector to become a priority sector in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. At present, the health and social services sector is not considered a priority sector. Yet, we have one of the worst records in terms of workers’ health and safety. It is necessary that there be prevention in the sector instead of waiting for people to become sick. There is no prevention being done right now. If we were considered a priority area, we would have prevention representatives and joint health and safety committees. In the health and social services sector, this is the absolute minimum needed for prevention.

Jeff Begley is President of the Federation of Health and Social Services (FSSS-CSN).