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Long-term care cuts protesters converge on Premier’s Middleton office


MIDDLETON - About 75 union members converged on Premier Stephen McNeil’s constituency office in Middleton to protest cuts to long term care – but the premier wasn’t in.

Canadian Union of Public Employees workers showed up for the planned rally to find a note on McNeil’s door saying the office would be closed on Nov. 18 due to outside meetings.

But that didn’t deter CUPE NS President Nan McFadgen from grabbing the bullhorn and demanding the Liberal government reverse it’s cuts to long-term care facilities in the province.

“Put the money back, put the money back,” sign-carrying protesters chanted as they marched from a nearby grocery store parking lot to McNeil’s office, only to realize the door was locked and the lights were off.

“I think the Premier knew we were coming down for a little social visit with him this afternoon and he decided not to be here,” said Kathy McLeod, long-term care coordinator for CUPE as the protesters gathered in front of McNeil’s office.

“Our seniors should not be the sacrifice for austerity,” said MacFadgen. “This government has cut funding to our long-term care facilities the past two years. Does anyone here remember that being a part of the campaign platform? And exactly where does the McNeil government think the work goes when they cut budgets to nursing homes that result in layoffs in environmental, dietary, and laundry? The work is still there, and it’s picked up by others in the same department or other departments. In whose world can we have one do the work of two and not have services impacted?”

She said three members of the support services department in the Heart of the Valley Nursing Home in Middleton received layoff notices.

“This is the fifth facility operated by GEM Health Care to lay off workers and reduce hours,” MacFadgen said. “Staff cuts were also made in Melville Lodge in Halifax, Gables Lodge in Amherst, White Hills in Hammonds Plains, and Admiral in Dartmouth.”

She said the layoffs are the direct result of $6.7 million in budget cuts to long-term care announced by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

“Stephen McNeil’s arrogance is such that he is comfortable to impact the standard of living for seniors even in his own riding,” MacFadgen told the crowd. “He is not thinking of our seniors. He is all about the bottom line. Health care in Nova Scotia needs to be about more than that.”

GEM Health Care Group director of operations James Balcom has said that since the beginning of 2015, the cutbacks by the province have totaled approximately $200,000 for his company.

Danny Cavanaugh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, said the CUPE workers have the support of his 70,000 members. He lauded the long-term care workers for coming out to the rally to stand up for the very seniors that they care for every day.

“You’re their voice, we’re their voice, together in solidarity with all the unions we’re going to be their voice as this government continues to make cuts, and cuts in areas that they shouldn’t,” Cavanaugh said, adding that there needs to be a dialogue about the effect those cuts have on small communities like Middleton.

“When we lose jobs in the community, that’s an economic downturn in the community,” he said. “Middleton cannot afford to lose any jobs, let alone two, or three, or four jobs,” Cavanaugh said. “We can’t afford any jobs and the Premier’s talking out of both sides of his mouth when he says he cares about the economy but at the same time says he cares about seniors – and he cares about all this stuff but he continues to lay off staff and cut budgets. I say shame on the Premier.”

Cavanaugh drew applause for his comments.

“We’re going to continue the fight. We’re going to work with all our affiliated unions, and we’re going to take on the government because next spring when there’s an election (and that’s when we think it’s going to be) we’re going to run their arses down the road and put them on the unemployment line.”

“We know that millions of dollars have been taken out of the long-term care budget,” said Heart of the Valley Local 3410 President Angela DeLong. “We know that it’s not just administrative efficiencies. Nobody can argue with being efficient but efficiencies have nothing to do with people losing their jobs.”

She said those who are laid off suffer, and so do those left behind.

“Just because the jobs are gone doesn’t mean the work is gone,” DeLong said. “The work remains.”

She suggested that while front line workers have not been laid off, some such as CCAs, may be taking up the slack and that impacts directly on the care of seniors.

“Cuts to jobs equals cuts to services,” she said. “And don’t anybody kid themselves that that doesn’t mean cuts to our residents’ care. It does.”

“We are going to be where ever the cuts are happening,” said CUPE long-term care committee chair Louise Riley who with DeLong helped organize the Middleton rally.

This is the second CUPE NS rally to protest cuts to long-term care facilities. One has also been held in Port Hawkesbury.

CUPE protesters concluded their rally after about half an hour. When they were getting ready to leave the propped up their signs around McNeil’s office door.

Canadian Union of Public Employees workers showed up for the planned rally to find a note on McNeil’s door saying the office would be closed on Nov. 18 due to outside meetings.

But that didn’t deter CUPE NS President Nan McFadgen from grabbing the bullhorn and demanding the Liberal government reverse it’s cuts to long-term care facilities in the province.

“Put the money back, put the money back,” sign-carrying protesters chanted as they marched from a nearby grocery store parking lot to McNeil’s office, only to realize the door was locked and the lights were off.

“I think the Premier knew we were coming down for a little social visit with him this afternoon and he decided not to be here,” said Kathy McLeod, long-term care coordinator for CUPE as the protesters gathered in front of McNeil’s office.

“Our seniors should not be the sacrifice for austerity,” said MacFadgen. “This government has cut funding to our long-term care facilities the past two years. Does anyone here remember that being a part of the campaign platform? And exactly where does the McNeil government think the work goes when they cut budgets to nursing homes that result in layoffs in environmental, dietary, and laundry? The work is still there, and it’s picked up by others in the same department or other departments. In whose world can we have one do the work of two and not have services impacted?”

She said three members of the support services department in the Heart of the Valley Nursing Home in Middleton received layoff notices.

“This is the fifth facility operated by GEM Health Care to lay off workers and reduce hours,” MacFadgen said. “Staff cuts were also made in Melville Lodge in Halifax, Gables Lodge in Amherst, White Hills in Hammonds Plains, and Admiral in Dartmouth.”

She said the layoffs are the direct result of $6.7 million in budget cuts to long-term care announced by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

“Stephen McNeil’s arrogance is such that he is comfortable to impact the standard of living for seniors even in his own riding,” MacFadgen told the crowd. “He is not thinking of our seniors. He is all about the bottom line. Health care in Nova Scotia needs to be about more than that.”

GEM Health Care Group director of operations James Balcom has said that since the beginning of 2015, the cutbacks by the province have totaled approximately $200,000 for his company.

Danny Cavanaugh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, said the CUPE workers have the support of his 70,000 members. He lauded the long-term care workers for coming out to the rally to stand up for the very seniors that they care for every day.

“You’re their voice, we’re their voice, together in solidarity with all the unions we’re going to be their voice as this government continues to make cuts, and cuts in areas that they shouldn’t,” Cavanaugh said, adding that there needs to be a dialogue about the effect those cuts have on small communities like Middleton.

“When we lose jobs in the community, that’s an economic downturn in the community,” he said. “Middleton cannot afford to lose any jobs, let alone two, or three, or four jobs,” Cavanaugh said. “We can’t afford any jobs and the Premier’s talking out of both sides of his mouth when he says he cares about the economy but at the same time says he cares about seniors – and he cares about all this stuff but he continues to lay off staff and cut budgets. I say shame on the Premier.”

Cavanaugh drew applause for his comments.

“We’re going to continue the fight. We’re going to work with all our affiliated unions, and we’re going to take on the government because next spring when there’s an election (and that’s when we think it’s going to be) we’re going to run their arses down the road and put them on the unemployment line.”

“We know that millions of dollars have been taken out of the long-term care budget,” said Heart of the Valley Local 3410 President Angela DeLong. “We know that it’s not just administrative efficiencies. Nobody can argue with being efficient but efficiencies have nothing to do with people losing their jobs.”

She said those who are laid off suffer, and so do those left behind.

“Just because the jobs are gone doesn’t mean the work is gone,” DeLong said. “The work remains.”

She suggested that while front line workers have not been laid off, some such as CCAs, may be taking up the slack and that impacts directly on the care of seniors.

“Cuts to jobs equals cuts to services,” she said. “And don’t anybody kid themselves that that doesn’t mean cuts to our residents’ care. It does.”

“We are going to be where ever the cuts are happening,” said CUPE long-term care committee chair Louise Riley who with DeLong helped organize the Middleton rally.

This is the second CUPE NS rally to protest cuts to long-term care facilities. One has also been held in Port Hawkesbury.

CUPE protesters concluded their rally after about half an hour. When they were getting ready to leave the propped up their signs around McNeil’s office door.

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