CAW Health Care Conference

May 12, 2010, 8:39 AM EST

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More than 200 delegates took part in the CAW Health Care Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia from May 7 to 9.

CAW President Ken Lewenza stressed the importance of remaining vigilant during a time of government austerity and cutbacks to ensure a strong future for Canada's universal health care system.

"The recent economic crisis has led to short-sighted decisions by some governments to reduce health care services and demand compensation freezes for these workers, many of whom must work more than one part-time job to earn a decent standard of living," Lewenza said.

"The Nova Scotia provincial government did the right thing in not attacking health care workers, rolling back wages or dictating the terms of collective bargaining, as some provinces are doing," Lewenza said.

CAW Health Care Director Katha Fortier pointed out that the impressive turnout for the CAW's fifth National Health Care Conference is evidence of the union's incredible growth in this sector.  "We know our strength comes from our solidarity and as our membership continues to rise in this sector, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of those who provide health care and those who receive it," Fortier said.

The CAW represents more than 27,000 health care workers across the country, mostly in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

CAW Local 27 President and CAW Council President Tim Carrie said the conference highlights the importance of fighting to ensure good working conditions and fair wages for health care workers, who are the backbone of universal health care. "We must remain outspoken in this struggle, which is critical to all Canadians since we all benefit from a strong universal health care system."

Nancy McMurphy, president of CAW Local 302 and National Executive Board member, stressed the importance of not taking universal health care for granted. "It was a struggle to establish universal health care and it's equally important to continue the fight to not only maintain it, but to also build it further for all Canadians."

The conference also featured speeches by a number of key guests including Nova Scotia Minister of Health Maureen MacDonald and Dr. Pat Croskerry Professor of Emergency Medicine at Dalhousie University.

CAW Atlantic Canada director Les Holloway pledged that the CAW would work hard to ensure all governments including the Nova Scotia NDP continue to support and properly fund universal health care. "The CAW will fight to ensure access and quality public health care is a top priority in all of our health care bargaining," Holloway said. 

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