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Dear Sisters and Brothers,
December 1 is World AIDS Day, an annual event established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to highlight the effect of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
While advances in treatments or a slowing of the epidemic continue to be good news, it is impossible to feel celebratory. Nationally, the Harper government chose this week to defeat Bill C-398, a New Democrat bill that would have helped deliver life-saving medicine to millions of people in developing countries. Last year alone, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related illness worldwide. Canada had an opportunity to lead, but once again the Conservatives put the interests of wealthy corporations ahead of real needs.
In Ontario the situation is not better, with a Liberal government that passed a budget last spring that cuts billions of dollars from public services, including the many that assist to curb HIV infection, and those that support people living with HIV / AIDS. Thousands of CUPE members go to work every day to help fight HIV/AIDS. Our members in health care provide treatment, our members in social services and at AIDS service agencies and in education work to raise awareness and to change conditions that are contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS.
That work is vitally important. It doesn’t just help people, it saves lives. And it is, at its heart, very much about helping people to access their rights to care and support, and to fight the discrimination and stigma that still exist. Yet the very front-line workers who are helping stop the spread of HIV/AIDS are having their own democratic rights targeted by the Ontario government.
Proposed legislation would strip our members of their right to free collective bargaining. The same proposed legislation also would end the stable, neutral process of interest arbitration that a quarter-million health care workers rely on. Unions have been able, because of these democratic rights, to bargain provisions protecting against harassment, to enhance workplace accommodation and to provide for workplace education and training, all of which better protects workers with HIV/AIDS and improving the climate for all workers.
This year, on World AIDS Day, CUPE Ontario stands with people living with HIV/AIDS, and those who work tirelessly to support them, in understanding there is still much work needed to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. We encourage you to write to your MP and express strong disagreement with the Conservative decision to block Bill C-398. We also encourage you to visit cupe.on.ca to learn more about the provincial attack on the rights of front-line service workers in our province, and what you can do to support the democratic rights of people who work every day to end suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Fred Hahn Candace Rennick