New Year brings hopes and challenges

Message from HEU Secretary-Business Manager Bonnie Pearson

Taken from the current issue of the Guardian, in members' mailboxes this month.

2012 will be an important year for HEU members. We will see a year dominated by collective bargaining, as will many of our sister public sector unions. And, looking toward the 2013 provincial election and the renewal of the federal-provincial Health Accord in 2014, HEU will work hard to defend our medicare system.  

HEU collective agreements expire this spring for members working in facilities, community health and community social services. It is disappointing that the BC Liberals, once again, have refused to put any new money into the system. 

Members employed by B.C.’s large private corporations will also be bargaining this fall. And throughout the year, HEU will be negotiating more than 35 independent contract renewals, primarily in the long-term care sector. 

In all cases, we will be going to the table with concrete proposals to improve members’ working conditions and the quality of care British Columbians deserve. 

Beyond the bargaining table, we will be continuing the important work identified by delegates attending our 2010 biennial convention – building stronger locals and greater unity across our sectors, as well as strengthening our health care team, our diversity and our alliances in the community. 

And this year, we will be working closely with our sisters and brothers in CUPE to campaign for a new Health Accord that will protect and expand public medicare. 

With the current federal-provincial agreement set to expire in 2014, health care advocates across Canada are concerned – with good reason – that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be pushing for greater privatization in our health system. We already know he has a sympathetic ear in Victoria. 

HEU members have a huge stake in these negotiations – as do all Canadians. We know firsthand just how much privatized health services have put public medicare at risk in B.C. – driving down wages, wasting precious resources, and destabilizing the care we all rely on.

Advocates of for-profit health care have spent years undermining medicare, arguing it is unsustainable. And now, those voices have seized the opportunity to lobby federal and provincial governments for more “private solutions” to health care’s challenges.

We are at a crossroads – one that will ultimately determine whether or not we will be able to preserve and strengthen our medicare system. 

And like the generations of HEU activists who fought before us, we have a critical role to play in these debates. 

That’s why our union will be working within CUPE, and side by side with our allies in the labour movement and the community, to stop the Harper and Clark governments from weakening public health care, and to advance real solutions that will make it stronger. 

And while all these challenges may seem overwhelming, I know that together we will stand strong in 2012 for fair collective agreements. We will continue to build our union. And we will use our collective power to defend the vital work of our members in a public, national system of medicare.