Nurses stand together to defend public health care and union rights

A nurse's job is never done - and that means participating in politics and social activism, not just professional nursing - Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan told more than 700 participants at UNA's annual general meeting Thursday.

"In addition to all the important work you do in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, your union has been on the forefront of the defence of public health care in this province," McGowan said.

Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions president Linda Silas warned nurses that they need to be part of the discussions about the future of the public health care system.

"Health care is facing a perfect storm because we have an increasing population, a rise of chronic disease and rising demand for public health. On the other hand you have shrinking funds from government," Silas told AGM delegates.

"We have to look beyond acute care and walk the talk about patient-centred and family-centred care," said Silas. "We need to improve primary health care and long-term care to save our health care system."

Both Silas and McGowan spoke about the need for nurses stand together to face attacks by right-wing politicians and lobby groups on working people and labour unions.

"In many ways this is the most significant fight that the labour movement has faced since at least the Second World War," said McGowan, referring to attacks on collective bargaining and pensions.

"Out of many workers, you have a pension that you can be proud of because you helped create it," McGowan said of the Local Authorities Pension Plan, which most Alberta nurses will be able to access upon retirement.

McGowan argued that right-wing politicians and lobby groups are looking to the Tea Party Republicans in the United States for their ideas to transform Canada. "This is something that has been rejected by Canadians and Albertans," said McGowan.

"We have an obligation to say no to the Tea Party agenda and stand up for the Canada we believe in," said McGowan.

UNA Convention Bulletin, Thurs Oct 25 2012

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