Frontline workers speak to Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos
Three hundred people tuned in to watch a roundtable organized by the SEIU on issues related to health care, chaired by Sharleen Stewart President of SEIU Healthcare.
The Round Table was broadcast live on FB and Twitter on Thursday, March 10, 2022 and can be seen here:
Participants in the round table:
- Jackie Walker, RPN, President of Nursing Division of SEIU, Toronto East
- Kelly Stevenson, Personal support worker, LTC sector, Toronto
- Jodi Berber, PSW Home Care sector, Toronto
- Andy Brake, Emergency Response officer, Hospital Sector, Sarnia, ON
- Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare, Toronto
- Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health of Canada
- Michael Coteau, Liberal MPP Don Valley East
The Minister opened the round table by saying that his message was one of gratitude for the work done by front line workers during the worst health care crisis in a century.
Here is a brief list of some of the comments and stories told by participants in the round table:
JACKIE: “As a nurse I’m terrified about the consequences to our health care system without a recruitment and retention strategy. I hear from nurses who come into the system, but don’t stay. And I hear from experienced nurses who are leaving every day because we only respect them with words but not action. What can Canada do to support the recruitment and retention of nurses and all health care workers?”
JODI: “We are the women who cared for Canadians in the pandemic. Too many of us in the care economy earn poverty wages. In 2019, the poverty threshold in Toronto was $49,000 for a family of four. Those costs have risen even more this year. Premier Ford refuses to lift us out of poverty and support a living wage for health care workers like PSWs. When you sit across the table from him, can we count on you to make our conditions of work a pillar of the Canadian Health Transfer conversation?”
KELLY: “Our union lost 5 members during the pandemic because they showed up to work to serve others. They were all women and all women of colour. As a Black mother and personal support worker, I experience systemic discrimination in my work everyday. How can the federal government stand up for women that look like me when our provincial government and employers act like we’re disposable?”
ANDY: “As a security officer in a hospital, I see first-hand what it means for people to work in unsafe working conditions. I see the acts of violence. I hear the calls for help—from both workers and patients. These sounds and these images are seared into my memory. And the greatest threat to our security in hospitals is the dangerously low-staffing levels. Dangerously low staffing levels undermine the public confidence in our universal health care system. What can we do to protect our health care system from privatization and invest in safe jobs?”
At around 53:07 Minister Duclos responded to questions on the topic of transfer discussions from the feds to the provinces and territories.
“Governments have to use transparency and be focused on results and strong accountability-that is the only way the governments can work together… If they are not doing that it leads to frustration, confusion, and anger on the part of healthcare workers and Canadians generally. Be certain this is the way we will be working with all provinces and territories.”
According to Jackie Walker, Registered Practical Nurse and President of the Nursing Division of SEIU, what the Minister said about accountability is very important to the union.
“The Ford government has not been good stewards of health transfers from the federal government. The pandemic pay left out so many frontline workers, leaving it to the unions to pressure, rally and send thousands of letters, make hundreds of phone calls to see it only slightly expanded to include more healthcare workers. Doug Ford never told Ontarians that 70% or more of the funding for pandemic pay came from the Federal government. It was the unions who educated membership about this.”
To make matters worse says Walker, recently the media reported that billions of dollars have been left in healthcare coffers in Ontario.
“I don’t understand how after a global pandemic we could have money left over,” says Walker. “If this money came from the federal government Ontarians should know. The Federal government should know. The provincial government in Ontario should be made accountable and tell us where the money came from, and what it is being spent on. When we lobby the federal government on health related topics, they have very limited power to help workers. This should change.”
THE SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION (SEIU) The SEIU is a union of some 2.5 million members spread throughout various locals in the United States of America, Québec and the rest of Canada, as well as Porto Rico.