Letter from President: Spring Stand 2021

The following is a message from our President Jason MacLean, which appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of our quarterly magazine, The Union Stand:

Dear members,

In some ways, it is hard to believe that we have been living with COVID for an entire year now. In other ways, this past year has felt like an eternity — even though we are fortunate to live here in Nova Scotia, where cases have remained low and we have been able to enjoy a relatively “normal” life, for the most part.

I want to take a moment to express my deepest appreciation to all of our members: each and every one of you have played such an important role in our COVID response and recovery. Whether you are on the “front line” of the hospitals or testing centres; working in the labs; stationed at the border; working in home care or long-term care facilities; or just doing your normal duties, but under very different circumstances: this has been an extremely stressful period of time. You have handled yourselves with kindness and professionalism, and done your best to protect the public, yourself and your loved ones. Thank you.

In this issue of The Stand, we are featuring the crucial work being done by our members working in Public Health (see page 4 for this feature). Despite the important work they are charged with in creating healthy communities, supporting families and responding to communicable diseases, Public Health only receives just over one per cent of our overall health budget: NSGEU members who work in this area have been stretched thin for a very long time, and it has taken a pandemic to shine a spotlight on the ways in which critical public services have been starved of support for a very long time.

COVID has also shone a very stark spotlight on the crisis in long-term care and home care. I made a presentation on this issue to the legislature’s standing committee on health back in January, making it very clear that the blame for what happened at Northwood lay squarely at the feet of our government. I don’t say this to be political, I am simply stating a fact (see page 14 for a copy of my remarks, and a link to the video of my presentation).

The uncertainty and chaos that have reigned over this past year have certainly taken a toll on us all, particularly on our mental health. While mental health is certainly another area of our public health care system that is in dire need of attention, there are resources available to members: if you have access to an Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) through your employer, please don’t hesitate to use it. Additionally, there are a few new initiatives that have been recently launched (see page 9 for more information on these programs).

One of the positive aspects of this pandemic has actually been, for me, the way it has exposed our collective weaknesses. Unions have been beating this drum for decades, but COVID has very clearly illustrated why public services, such as health care, truly matter. While neoliberal governments have been chipping away at the strength of these services, eroding and contracting them out as time ticked on, COVID has presented an opportunity for us all to reflect on what really matters to us, collectively, and reprioritize.

But change calls for leadership and bold action. Fortunately, we have a new Premier at the helm here in Nova Scotia. I am cautiously optimistic that Premier Rankin will be open to working with unions and the workers we represent to make positive changes to strengthen and improve our public services.

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