Nova Scotia: Situation underscores the necessity for the leadership and voice of the working people at all times

Without mobilizing and unleashing the initiative and power of the working class, the fight against the pandemic is seriously undermined and weakened | K.C. ADAMS

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) is the largest union in the province of Nova Scotia, representing the individual and collective interests of over 30,000 public and private sector employees. NSGEU members work in the civil service, centres of education, universities, hospitals, liquor stores, correctional facilities, municipalities, and other organizations across the province.

In recent years, the NSGEU has been resisting the attacks of the McNeil Liberal Party government in power which has unleashed assault after assault on workers’ right to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions acceptable to themselves. The working conditions of NSGEU workers in many cases have a direct effect on the conditions of the people they serve.

The Liberal Party in power has passed laws declaring home care workers and nurses essential to the health of the province yet has denied these essential workers the right to decide their working conditions and wages and what they require to perform their work properly. This contradiction has carried over into the current COVID-19 crisis where the government continues to deny public health care workers a leading role and voice in organizing to defeat the pandemic. Without mobilizing and unleashing the initiative and power of the working class, the fight against the pandemic is seriously undermined and weakened.

The history of depriving the health care sector of the leadership and voice of the working class has created a crisis with staffing shortages and escalating wait times even before the onset of the pandemic. The NSGEU has published reports with clear solutions reflecting the views of health care workers from the front lines but the government continues to suppress the rights and voice of the people who do the work.

The NSGEU writes on its website of decades of cuts to the civil service having a negative impact on its members working in community services, child welfare, corrections, and courthouses. Occupational health and safety are top of mind. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals in a stark way the folly of weakening the health sector, social programs and public services. The anti-social offensive must be reversed with increased investments in social programs and public services. For the sake of all the people, the province and society, the working class must present its views on what is needed in its own loud voice and not be silent in the face of the anti-social measures of cartel party governments and employers. The modern world cannot function and solve its problems without the organized leadership and voice of the working people.

Dealing with issues facing public and private sector workers

By Jason MacLean

I am in constant contact with people from the Department of Health and Wellness. We are giving our members’ perspective on how things are affecting the workplace and what should be done. They are receptive and we are working well together.

There are issues that came up in our workplaces such as the need to have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), to organize for people to work from home, to make sure that workers who are put on 14 days quarantine leave are getting paid.

There is a huge issue coming up with childcare. All schools and all daycares have been shut down. Last week was not such a big issue because it was March break but now March break is over and the schools are still closed. There are no daycares. A lot of our members still have to go to work but they have child care issues. Some employers are saying to our members if you do not have childcare, work it out with your managers and if you can’t work it out, use your own lieu time, your banked time or your vacation time. Workers should not have to deplete their own bank accounts because of the pandemic. This is something we are trying to have addressed by the government and it is a huge issue across all sectors.

As far as PPE is concerned, we are still in the midst of it. For instance, in home care, we are reaching out to our providers and asking them what PPE are you providing for the people. They are saying that they are providing the proper PPE but they are not telling us what it is. We need answers to this. Our home care workers do not have gloves, shields, masks or gowns. Some providers have them but others don’t. Our members are going from one workplace, which is somebody’s home, to another workplace which is somebody’s home. They have to have proper protection.

We know we are going to get hit worse, but the measures that are being put in place are going to help us to get through this crisis. We all have to work for the well-being of all the people in Nova Scotia.

Jason MacLean is President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees and General Workers Union.

(Workers’ Forum, March 27, 2020)

1 Comment

Filed under Nova Scotia Government, Working Class

One response to “Nova Scotia: Situation underscores the necessity for the leadership and voice of the working people at all times

  1. Pingback: Nova Scotia healthcare workers demand assurances on safety equipment | Tony Seed's Weblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s