Now they’re fighting to ensure prescription drug coverage for all Canadian workers.
During the Labour Day Picnic at Joe Ghiz Memorial Park on Monday, P.E.I. Federation of Labour President Carl Pursey said no Canadian should be forced to choose between paying a grocery bill and getting a prescription filled.
“Canada’s unions have fought hard to win health insurance coverage for our members. But we’re not stopping there,” said Pursey. “Our big thing for this year is pharmacare, we’d like to have a plan for everyone.”
Pursey and other union members marked Labour Day this year by launching the A Plan For Everyone campaign, a joint effort between the Canadian Labour Congress and Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
Pursey said many workers on P.E.I. pay out of pocket because they either don’t have a prescription plan or because their plan doesn’t cover the full cost.
He also pointed to a national survey by Angus Reid in 2015 that found that 26 per cent of Atlantic Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed because they can’t afford to.
The survey said many are splitting pills, skipping days to stretch prescriptions or simply not getting them filled at all. It also noted that women and young workers are less likely to have prescription drug coverage, in part because more women work part time while younger workers tend to be more likely to be stuck in low-wage jobs.
“That’s why we’re working to win a universal prescription drug plan that covers all Canadians regardless of their income, age or where they live,” said Pursey, adding that an estimated 3.5 million Canadians can’t afford to fill their prescriptions. “Canada has the only developed country in the world with universal health care that does not include prescription drugs. And Canada has the second highest prescription drug costs in the world next to the United States.
“Unions are saying, ‘this has to stop’.”
Mona O’Shea, president of the P.E.I. Nurses Union, said achieving a national pharmacare plan is a cause that is close to many nurses.
In fact, she said nurses unions across the country have been advocating for a plan for about 10 years.
“I think we’re moving closer, but there’s definitely more work that needs to be done,” said O’Shea. “(This campaign) is representing millions of Canadians right across the country… We feel this joining together of two organizations (Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and Canadian Labour Congress) s really going to move this pharmacare forward.”
Apart from the campaign launch, the Charlottetown picnic saw a barbecue and number of family friendly activities like live entertainment and a magic show.
O’Shea also spoke on the importance of Labour Day.
“Labour Day is here because of unions. We advocated for this years and years ago,” she said. “So I think it’s something to be recognized, for all people in the workforce to enjoy this day and have the holiday recognized.”