Pallister creating false choice with health care premium proposal

Today the Pallister government suggested that they may introduce a health care premium to Manitoba, imposing a new fee that would be allocated to the health care system.

“Pallister is creating a false choice when it comes to health care,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of the CUPE Provincial Health Care Council.

“Rather than the false choice between a new fee or cuts, the government needs to do a better job at making sure higher income earners and corporations are paying their fair share into the tax base that supports our health care system.”

The Pallister government has been reeling under growing public criticism of its cuts to health care across the province. Manitobans expect a government to prioritize investments in health care, especially with an aging population.

“Pallister’s health care cuts are reckless, and Manitobans are making it clear that these cuts must stop,” said Boissonneault. “Pallister’s plan for health care premiums is simply an attempt to divert attention away from his cuts, and Manitoban’s won’t fall for that trick.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 643,000 members.  In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 26,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

CUPE concerned with new for-profit MRI clinic in Niverville, Manitoba

WINNIPEG – CUPE is expressing deep concern with the proposed new private MRI clinic announced by Niverville Heritage Holdings Inc. This new MRI clinic is planning to charge between $1,000 and $1,300 for an MRI.

“Private profit has no place in our health care system,” says Darrin Cook, President of the CUPE Local 4270 representing health care support workers in Southern Health – Santé Sud. “Universal health care is a pillar of Canadian society, is enshrined in the Canada Health Act, and profiting off MRIs should not be allowed.”

The new private MRI facility is also reportedly being built without the support of either the federal or provincial governments, noting an agreement between Niverville Heritage Holdings Inc., the Town of Niverville, Liver Care Canada, and two private individuals.

“Health care funding and provision is the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments,” said Cook. “How is this even allowed to operate without full support from the other levels of government?”

Allowing private for-profit MRI clinics opens the floodgates for other private health care providers to set up shop in Manitoba and will reduce public investments in new public facilities.

“If we truly want to reduce MRI wait times, we need to invest in public MRI services and make sure MRIs are being used the way they are supposed to be used,” said Cook citing the 2017 Manitoba auditor general’s report on MRI wait times, which noted a principal reason for wait times is the high level of inappropriate requests for MRIs.

“We fully support investments in Niverville, and investments in health care,” said Cook, “but this new private MRI clinic will introduce a two-tiered system where the rich can buy their way into treatment ahead of the poor, and that is simply not right”.

CUPE Local 4270 represents approximately 2,100 health care workers in Southern Health – Santé Sud.

Pallister pushes P3 schools, despite growing concerns

WINNIPEG – Today the Manitoba Government announced the hiring of a private consulting firm, KPMG, to pursue the government’s plan to build four new schools in Manitoba under a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model, despite growing concern nation-wide that P3 schools end up costing more.

“Premier Pallister first announced the new P3 schools to the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships, P3 lobbyists,” said Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba. “He did not announce the new schools to parents, school staff, or school divisions, which is quite telling of his agenda.”

The P3 school model has raised serious concerns across Canada, including in Nova Scotia which recently bought back P3 schools because it would be cheaper.

“Pallister isn’t telling the whole story on P3 schools,” said Egan. “And now he is spending taxpayer dollars on a consultant to push forward with his P3 agenda, rather than having an honest discussion on whether or not P3s should even be used.”

The provincial government recently announced the building of two new schools in Winkler and Niverville slated to open by 2019, to be financed and built traditionally.

In preparation for opening the doors to P3s in Manitoba, Premier Pallister also rescinded the province’s Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act. This legislation would ensure public consultation and cost comparators prior to considering P3 agreements.

“The government has already committed to the P3 model, trashing public accountability, and is handing the planning over to a private consultant,” said Egan. “Pallister has no interest in building schools publicly, and entering into this private sector scheme will hurt our schools in the long run.”

In June, CUPE Local 737, representing school support workers in Brandon, hosted a public town hall to discuss concerns with the P3 model.

Experience from other jurisdictions:
Province to buy 10 public-private partnership schools for $49.3m (July 16, 2017)

Nova Scotia Buys 2 P3 Schools for $12.9m

Alberta government scraps P3 funding model for new schools

Province Abandoning P3 Model for 19 New Alberta Schools

Nova Scotia government to buy 12 P3 schools for nearly $86M

P3 School Projects Blasted by AG Report

CUPE Saskatchewan Fact Sheet on P3 Schools

Case Study: P3 Schools in Alberta

WRHA announces cuts to frontline workers, more health care closures

The WRHA has once again announced a slew of cuts to patient care and privatization of services that will directly affect Manitobans and the front-line health care workers who provide the services.

Today’s WRHA announcement cuts deeper than before, with whole clinics being shut down, and promises to reduce staffing levels in WRHA facilities.

Among those clinics being closed are:
• Four QuickCare clinics;
• The Corydon Primary Care Clinic, which specializes in diabetes care;
• The Mature Women’s Centre, a multi-disciplinary facility which specializes in gynecological issues, including menopause transition and hysterectomy alternatives.

“At this point we can safely say that health care in Manitoba is in distress,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE’s Provincial Health Care Council. “This government is going too far, too fast, and someone is going to get hurt.”

There has been no indication how many front-line workers will be cut, but the WRHA irresponsibly claims that Manitoba has “too many” health care workers.

Today’s announcement suggests a planned reduction of front-line staff by claiming the WRHA will introduce new staff-to-patient ratios and “mixed” duties, with no further details.

“Brian Pallister said that he will ‘protect’ front line workers,” said Boissonneault, “But this government has finally come out with the truth: there will now be fewer front-line health care staff to care for Manitobans”.

The announcement also indicates the privatization of adult outpatient physiotherapy and hospital-based occupational therapy clinic services, as well as the Grace Hospital retail food services. Meals currently made on-site at Middlechurch Home will in the future be provided by the Regional Distribution Facility.

The WRHA is also increasing various fees for various services.

“The WRHA and provincial government are decimating our health care system with reckless cuts, closures, and privatization,” said Boissonneault. “This must be stopped”.

CUPE members protest cuts to health care in Manitoba

CUPE members were out en-force on July 6, protesting the Manitoba government’s cuts to health care.

“Employees at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) and CancerCare Manitoba are overworked, understaffed, and deeply concerned with the Pallister government’s massive changes to health care” said CUPE Local 1550, representing support staff at HSC and CancerCare Manitoba.

With Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centres closed, new long-term care facilities canceled, the cancellation of the new CancerCare building, and other hospital programs being cut and shuffled around, a bigger burden will be placed on HSC with no sign of new resources.

“The government’s cavalier plans for health care have been confusing, chaotic, and have deeply hurt staff morale”, said CUPE 1550. “How can HSC handle major increases in patient flow? How can health care workers do their jobs when the government keeps making cuts and systemic changes?”

Pickets were held from 7:15am – 9am, 11am – 1pm, and 3pm – 5pm throughout the day to facilitated shift changes so members could join the picket line. Local media noted the significant support from members of the community driving by.

Recent polling found that the majority of Manitobans are opposed to the governments closure of Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centres. CUPE and other unions have held numerous rallies against cuts, including outside the Concordia Hospital, Seven Oaks General Hospital, Victoria Hospital, Misericordia Hospital, at the Manitoba Legislature, and in Flin Flon.

“Our pickets today are to keep the pressure on the government by continuing to raise awareness against the cuts”, said CUPE 1550.

CUPE members from Locals 500, 998, 1599, 1973, and 2348 came out in support!

CUPE members were also joined by dozens of activists from sister unions, including Amalgamated Transit Union 1505, Canadian Postal Workers, Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, Manitoba Federation of Labour, Manitoba Government & General Employees Union, Manitoba Nurses Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Unifor, and Workers United.

Unions file court injunction against Pallister’s wage freeze bill.

Today CUPE, through the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Partnership to Defend Public Services filed a court injunction to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench against Pallister’s Bill 28, the “Public Services Sustainability Act”.

Terry Egan (second, back row) with other labour leaders.

Bill 28 is also known widely as the public sector wage freeze bill.

“CUPE is taking concrete action against Bill 28,” says Lee McLeod, Regional Director of CUPE. “By filing an injunction we are sending a clear message that we believe the wage freeze legislation is unconstitutional, and must be stopped”.

Bill 28 was tabled on March 20, 2017 by the Pallister government, and passed in June.

Bill 28 has not yet been enacted into law, which means this injunction could prevent the Bill from actually taking effect. The court injunction process may take a number of months to complete.

“We will fight Pallister’s attacks on families in the courts of law, in the halls of power, and in the streets” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“This government will no longer be able to pass laws that hurt Manitoba families without a fight”.

For more information on the Partnership to defend Public Services’ efforts to fight Bill 28, visit the MFL’s page.

Social Impact Bonds wrong direction for Manitoba’s social services – CUPE

Today the Manitoba government announced the opening of a request for proposals for Social Impact Bonds, a scheme in which private companies profit off social service delivery.

“There was a time when the private sector would simply make philanthropic donations as part of their corporate responsibility to the community” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Social Impact Bonds take that corporate philanthropy and turn it into a private money-making scheme”.

While Pallister claims that Social Impact Bonds would foster “private-sector innovation,” these companies will seek to invest in only the non-government agencies that would see profitable outcomes, rather than programs that seek to address long-term root causes of many of societies deep and complex issues, including poverty.

“Social Impact Bonds are like P3s, for social services. We have the in-house expertise we need to deliver social services right here in Manitoba,” said Egan. “There’s no need to outsource the financing, planning and evaluation of social programs to consultants and corporations”.

For more information on Social Impact Bonds, see these helpful links:

Profiting form children: a child care social impact bond in Chicago

https://cupe.ca/profiting-children-child-care-social-impact-bond-chicago

CUPE Table Talk: Social Impact Bonds: The next horizon of provatization

https://cupe.ca/social-impact-bonds-next-horizon-privatization

CUPE Economy at Work: Economics 101 – Decoding Social Impact Bonds

https://cupe.ca/economics-101-decoding-social-impact-bonds

Public Sector Unions File for Injunction Against Heavy-Handed New Labour Law

Via Manitoba Federation of Labour

Today the Partnership to Defend Public Services, representing more than 110,000
Manitoba workers, filed for an injunction against the so-called Public Services Sustainability Act,
recently passed by the Pallister government.

“The Pallister government has passed a new law that fundamentally undermines collective bargaining
rights. It’s unfair and it’s unconstitutional,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck,
on behalf of the Partnership.

“We are launching a full constitutional challenge and we are seeking an
injunction, to prevent this new law from being proclaimed until after a court ruling.

The Partnership today filed a statement of claim in the Court of Queen’s Bench challenging the
constitutionality of the Public Services Sustainability Act. The action includes a request for an injunction
that would prevent the government from proclaiming the Act.

Rebeck said that for months public sector unions made every effort to engage in a constructive way
with government but that the process was unproductive.

He also noted that government:
• Refused to answer any questions including those about their basic objectives or financial
assumptions.
• Provided no feedback on proposals from public sector unions.
• Made no amendments to Bill 28, despite concerns raised by labour at committee hearings.

“Manitoba’s public-sector unions came to the table with practical ideas to help reduce the deficit, but it’s
clear that the Pallister government was never serious about consulting with anyone,” said Rebeck.

“This comes right on the heels of major layoffs and cuts to healthcare and other services people count
on. Brian Pallister can use his majority in the legislature to get his way, but we’ll be there to pushback
every step of the way in court.”

Pallister Government’s Plan for Health Care: Create as much confusion as possible

Today the Minister of Health has once again announced major changes to Manitoba’s health care system. These changes will cause greater confusion and frustration within the health care system which is already facing government cuts and restructuring.

“Pallister is already assaulting our ERs, Urgent Care centres, and other hospital programs in Winnipeg, and now he wants to restructure the system province-wide? It’s nothing short of reckless,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator. “Causing widespread confusion and uncertainty in the health care system will hurt staff morale and will frustrate patients.”

CUPE Provincial Health Care Council President Debbie Boissonneault

The provincial government has already imposed system-wide cuts in the form of forcing RHAs to find “savings”, as well as hundreds of jobs cut from management positions. The new Provincial Health Organization will supposedly find even more “savings”, but the government is unclear where those savings will come from or what front-line positions will be affected.

“The provincial government is playing a dangerous game with our health care system,” said McAteer. “Playing shuffle-board with our health care programs is irresponsible.”

Using the same Peachy Report they used to cut ERs and shuffle hospital programs around in Winnipeg, the government is now taking aim at Rural Health Authorities and province-wide programs with yet-to-be-determined cuts and changes. The government is unclear on what exact changes will be made to important services including Diagnostic Services of Manitoba Inc. and how these changes will affect staff.

“The government’s approach to health care creates so much uncertainty and leaves health care providers and support workers with more questions than answers,” said McAteer. “With so much being changed at once, we are deeply concerned that patient care, staff morale, and actual programming will be irreparably damaged.”

CUPE remains opposed to ER, Urgent Care closures and program changes

WINNIPEG – The Canadian Union of Public Employees remains opposed to the sweeping changes to Winnipeg’s health

care services announced by the WRHA in April 2017. These changes included the closure of community ERs, Urgent Care, as well as the shuffling of community-based mental health programs.

Today’s WRHA announcement that identifies the timelines in which these changes are to be made is troubling.

“These sweeping changes were announced without community input, and it

CUPE 1973 members protesting health care cuts at Concordia Hospital, April 2017

seems they are now being implemented at break-neck speed despite broad community opposition,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE’s Provincial Health Care Coordinator.

“Health care support workers, doctors, nurses, even eye-doctors have raised serious concerns with the closures and program changes, and these experts on the ground

are clearly not being listened to.”

While CUPE members participated in on-site forums held by the WRHA over the past number of weeks and participated in the Winnipeg Wait-Time Reduction Task Force consultation which had

CUPE 2509 members protesting program cuts at Seven Oaks Hospital, April 20, 2017.

fewer than 15 participants, there has been no meaningful opportunities for the community to voice their concerns.

“It has been abundantly clear that neither the community, nor labour, nor experts in the field were consulted in the lead-up to the government’s changes to

health care,” said McAteer. “These changes triggered protests outside health care facilities, as well as in the community, and I expect these protests will continue.”

CUPE believes that strong investments must be made in health care, and that

CUPE 8600 members protesting health care cuts in Flin Flon, May 2017

the government’s mandated “savings” are nothing short of a direct cut to front-line health care services.

“We have already seen the impacts of cuts to the quality of care in the North, and now we’re seeing it here in Winnipeg,” said McAteer, citing protests against staff shortages in the Northern Regional Health Authority as a result of the government’s mandate.

“The provincial government’s ill-conceived mission to find ‘savings’ in health care is

becoming nothing short of reckless, and someone is bound to get hurt.”

CUPE acknowledges the WRHA’s statement that collective agreements will be honoured throughout the process and we expect to fully participate in discussions moving forward.

CUPE 1599 (Grace Hospital) supporting the rally at the Victoria Hospital, May 2017