President Haggerty speaks at online rally for action to end the long-term care crisis

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January 29, 2021

On January 29, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) held an online protest to demand action on Ontario’s Long-Term Care Crisis.

End the Long-Term Care Crisis in Ontario - Take Action

The online protest included a number of speakers. Union leaders, activists, and politicians spoke about the crisis that has existed long before COVID-19 came along. Viewers also heard from families with heartbreaking stories of losing loved ones to COVID-19 in sometimes squalid conditions amid the long-term care crisis.

UFCW Local 175 President Shawn Haggerty was one of the speakers asked to talk about the experience of our healthcare members. Below you’ll find a video and transcript of President Haggerty’s address.

First, take just a minute to head over to the OHC web page and send a message to your MPP and demand they take action: Take action now to save our seniors, support our healthcare workers, and end the crisis in long-term care.

You can also download posters from the OHC to display your support for healthcare workers.

President Haggerty, speaking at the OHC online protest to demand action on Ontario’s Long-Term Care Crisis:

“Good afternoon Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

It’s been hard hearing the stories. I’m going to be flat out. It’s sad. It’s just sad that this is the state of healthcare in Ontario.

But I’d like to talk about our members who provide healthcare to our elders – in long-term care, retirement homes, and in homecare settings. I want to talk about the challenges these workers face every day and what must be done to protect and support them.

We all know that elder care in this province is in crisis. Every day, we see heartbreaking stories about how COVID-19 has swept through LTC and Retirement homes leaving far too many dead and far too many families grieving.

Our elders have been isolated in those homes, knowing their friends and neighbours in those homes are dying, unable to see their families and, too often, suffering needlessly in a number of ways because these home operators and our government hold profit in higher regard than life.

Our workers have been pushed past the limit as they try desperately to provide care without the resources, help, or support they need to do it.

It’s hard to believe it’s happening here in this province – in Canada – but it is. And the sad truth is, this crisis has existed for much longer than just the last year.
This crisis existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ontario healthcare system has been dangerously mismanaged for decades.

Our elected government has focused on profit for shareholders… not on providing care for residents.

This lack of moral leadership has led to an entire industry with too many part-time, low wage jobs without benefits. These decisions have continued to make sure that residents and workers’ pay the price while shareholders make off with millions.

Our healthcare members are some of the most passionate caring people you can find. They went into this line of work because they care.

No matter the mental or physical exertion, these members continue to report to work. They continue to look after our loved ones. And, they continue to put their own health on the line to do it. They’ve carried this burden while working day in and day out to provide their residents with the best care possible.

And as far as I can tell – our government doesn’t care.

So far, the Ford government has failed to take any real action to address this crisis. Even if we set aside the decades of underfunding, Ford has had a year now of this pandemic to create – and enact – a real action plan.

After the first wave of COVID-19 rocked our long-term care homes with tragedy – where the government resorted to asking the Canadian Armed Forces for assistance – I think Ontarians assumed that changes would be coming soon. How could they not be?

So, how – after a year of this pandemic – could there not be a plan?

How could there not be more immediate funding and support for these workers – for these residents – and for these families?

Unions across the province, activists, public health officials, the Armed Forces, and report after report have all called for immediate action to address this dire situation. So, where was Doug Ford’s plan? Where is it now?

Ford has completely failed the people of Ontario. I’m not sure there’s another way to see it at this point. He has failed every one of our elders; every one of our healthcare workers; every one of their families. Everyone.

Despite a desperate need to hire more caregivers, the government offered only a temporary bonus that has been largely paid for by federal money. And when that money ran out, Ford announced a new – and again, temporary – premium just for PSWs. Plus, the roll out of those premiums took forever. Even now, some PSWs still haven’t started to receive the $3 hourly premium that was supposed to start in October.

These workers – many of whom had two jobs because one part-time job doesn’t pay enough – have had their income gutted by emergency orders that have restricted them to one job without any wage top ups to make up the difference.

For years, there have been calls and private members’ bills to implement a minimum standard of four hours of care per day per resident. Ford’s response? He announced a timetable to roll out this standard over a four-year time period. Calls for more beds have largely been ignored as well. Ford has only offered up a ten-year timeline which doesn’t even cover the waitlist for long-term care that exists today.

We need solutions to happen now. Our government has the power to address these problems.

They have the power to do it now. It’s happening in British Columbia and Quebec – why not Ontario?

We will continue to work alongside unions, advocates and the Ontario Health Coalition to demand that our government implement real and immediate actions to support healthcare workers and address the elder care crisis now and in the future.

We call for:

  • An acceleration of the time frame to implement the four-hour minimum care standard so that staffing levels can improve.
  • Improved pay, benefits, and full-time work to ensure healthcare jobs are meaningful to the lives of workers and to help with recruitment of much needed staff.
  • Appropriate funding to support the system and we require that funding to be spent on ensuring the care of residents and the safety and well-being of the staff.

That means priority access to vaccines for residents and staff.

That means holding the operators of these homes accountable for their decisions.

And, that means focusing on care over profit.

People over profit. Family over profit. Need over profit.

UFCW will continue to apply pressure to all levels of government to implement meaningful, substantial, and immediate solutions.  We call on all of our members, our families, and the public to hold Premier Ford, Ministers Elliott and Fullerton, and every single Member of Provincial Parliament accountable for the decisions they’re making.

We need change now.

I want to thank our members and all healthcare workers for their commitment, their tireless work, and their compassion for their clients and families throughout this crisis and through some of the most dire circumstances we can imagine. You are invaluable.

I want to thank Natalie and the Ontario Health Coalition and all of you for your consistent work and dedication to helping make our healthcare system a place of dignity and wellness for our elders and our workers.

They deserve no less.”

You can see the full video of the online protest captured during the live stream on the OHC Facebook page.

See all of the Union’s COVID-19 related info in one spot, here.

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