Unions – Standing strong for Nova Scotians

By Joan Wark
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As we mark Labour Day in Nova Scotia, we celebrate the contributions unions make every day to improve the lives of working people.

Every union job in this province helps build a strong economy. Every day unions stand up and push back in areas so we can all do better, standing up for many things we all enjoy.

We work to make positive gains for all Nova Scotians on things like a higher minimum wage, better sick leave provisions, universal workers’ compensation coverage, better pensions and stronger occupational health and safety regulations and enforcement.

We are working to ensure solid enforcement of the Federal Westray Law so when a worker gets killed in a workplace, it must be investigated as a criminal offence and prosecuted as one.

We must also work to protect our members when they are attacked.

The Liberals, since coming to power, have forced eight pieces of regressive legislation on workers and their unions.

This is no way to govern when we have the collective right to strike and to free and fair collective bargaining enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We must defend our members when a government draws a line in the sand like the McNeil Liberals have.

We are going to court on some of this regressive legislation – Bills 30 and on Bill 37 and our teachers are going to court on Bill 75.

And yet, the McNeil Liberals continue to make one bad choice after another.

Last week, Premier McNeil and his cabinet proclaimed Bill 148 which imposes wage freezes and concessions on thousands of workers across the province – a continuation of their attack on fair and free collective bargaining and workers’ constitutional rights.

These are strictly political moves by the government – moves made without even thinking about the cost to all Nova Scotians.

Blaming union members for the fiscal state of the province is wrong. Union members do not make these choices, our governments do.

This year we are also committing to winning a federal national pharmacare program. Being Canadian means that if you get sick, you can get treated, regardless of where you live or how much you make. Or at least it should be that way. The problem is that we have a massive gap in our public health care system when it comes to prescription drug coverage,

We were there in 1966 when we gained a national Medicare plan and ever since then we been pushing, not just for better health insurance coverage for our members, but better public coverage for everyone. Today, about 8.4 million working Canadians don’t have prescription drug coverage. Many workers in Nova Scotia are paying out of pocket for prescriptions because they don’t have a prescription drug plan, or because their plan doesn’t cover the full cost.

A national survey by Angus Reid in 2015 found that 26 percent of Atlantic Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed because they can’t afford to. Many seniors and others are splitting pills, skipping days of taking a medication to stretch their prescriptions, or not filling their prescriptions at all.

Women are less likely than men to have prescription drug coverage, in part because more women work part-time. Younger workers are less likely to have prescription drug coverage, especially because they’re more likely to be stuck in low-wage, precarious jobs. Nobody should be forced to choose between paying for groceries and paying for the medication they need. That’s why our unions are calling on the federal government to establish a single-payer, universal prescription drug plan. Because an estimated 150,000 including 80,000-part time workers of this province’s workers don’t have health benefits.

A win will mean consistent and equal access to prescription coverage for all Canadians in every province and territory. This Labour Day, Canada’s unions are committing to making this crucial issue our priority too. Workers and their unions will unite with health care advocates in communities across the country to launch our campaign for universal prescription drug coverage for all Canadians under the banner “Pharmacare: A Plan for Everyone”.

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