Papers & Research

Submission: Saskatchewan Ground Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Stakeholder Consultation

Beyond our mandate and legal duty to advocate on behalf of our members and improve their wages, benefits and working conditions, SEIU-West strives to lead the way to a more just and humane society. We stand for economic and social justice, for dignity and respect, for having a voice on the job and in society, and for a secure job with the opportunity to advance. This mission heavily informs the recommendations in our EMS Stakeholder Consultation Submission.

Related:

Submission of SEIU-West to the Saskatchewan Ground Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Stakeholder Consultation

 

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Submission: Workers’ Compensation Board Governance and Appeals Consultation Process

SEIU-West recognizes the importance of continually seeking to improve the governance and appeals processes of the Workers’ Compensation Board. Yet the pursuit of improvement must be driven above all by the needs of the injured worker: to count as an improvement, changes in WCB structures or processes must smooth the injured worker’s access to much needed benefits, by ensuring that the appeal process is as comprehensible and timely as possible.

It is from that perspective that SEIU-West made a submission to the Workers Compensation Board.

Related:

SEIU-West Submission to WCB – July 5, 2017

 

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Submission: Consultation on Interpersonal Violence and Employment Leaves

SEIU-West was invited by the Minister of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety to participate in the consultation process on interpersonal violence and the impact in the workplace.

SEIU-West’s Young Worker Committee (YWC) has worked tirelessly with other allies in the community, including the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and Provincial Association of Transition Houses & Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) to raise public awareness about domestic violence. Together, we see the need for improved workplace safety and secure funding for those agencies who provide necessary community supports for the victims of domestic violence.

This report was submitted on July 20, 2017 on behalf of SEIU-West and our YWC.

 

Related documents:

Memo: Interpersonal Violence (IVP) and Employment Leaves

SEIU-West Submission: Consultation on Interpersonal Violence and Employment Leaves

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Submission: Stakeholder Feedback on Standards and Competencies for the RN with Additional Authorized Practice Document

SEIU-West promotes nursing care delivery models that are based upon the principles of collaboration, mutual respect, and the exchange of knowledge among members of the health care team.

It is from that perspective that SEIU-West has submitted our feedback to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA) on the Standards and Competencies for the RN with Additional Authorized practice.

Related documents:

SEIU-West Feedback SRNA

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WCB Board of Review submission

Here is a copy of SEIU-West’s submission to the Workers Compensation Board Committee of Review, submitted November 16, 2015.

SEIU-West Submission to CoR November 2015 – FINAL

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SEIU-West Submission to K-12 Education Advisory Panel

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Submission of SEIU-West to Dan Perrins – Education Governance Report

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Submission of SEIU-West to the Saskatchewan Regional Health Authorities (RHA) Review Advisory Panel

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Submission by SEIU-West to the CIIT regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Submission by Service Employees’ International Union-West to the Standing Committee on International Trade regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

SEIU-West is taking a stand against many provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that must be seen for what it is: a corporate bill of rights. In fact, of the 30 chapters in the TPP, only five pertain to trade.[i]

There are many areas of concern within the TPP. Many of its provisions impact the rights of Canadians to a democratic society, free of corporate rule. One particularly flagrant example is the TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arrangement, which would give foreign corporations the ability to undermine and render impotent any serious attempt by Canadian jurisdictions to comply with the Paris COP21 climate change targets.[ii] In the following brief, SEIU-West will focus on the impact of the TPP’s ISDS mechanism on one of our most cherished Canadian values: access to health care. We are especially concerned by the tremendous amount of unaccountable power the TPP’s ISDS system gives to large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

The ISDS system truly embodies the corporate power that is built into the TPP. It allows foreign private investors to challenge government actions with lawsuits claiming that these actions–even actions that clearly serve the public interest–“expropriate” their assets. These lawsuits are heard outside the traditional court system, in private tribunals whose decisions are binding. Therefore, ISDS essentially shifts power from the courts, legislatures and government (meant to represent the people) to foreign investors and a small group of lawyers who often get called upon as arbitrators. This alternative to our court system is available only to foreign investors, thereby raising basic concerns about equality before the law.[iii] In addition to tribunal costs and penalties, Canadian taxpayers pay the price for ISDS, in the form of lost sovereignty, lost accountability, and—as discussed below—higher drug and health care costs.Submission by Service Employees’ International Union-West to the Standing Committee on International Trade regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-1

Under NAFTA, Canada already knows the disturbing repercussions of this process. It has been sued far more times than its US or Mexican partners. There is evidence that Canada has been the target of more ISDS actions than any other developed country. In the pharmaceutical sector Canada is facing a lawsuit from large and hugely profitable U.S. drug company Eli Lilly. The Supreme Court of Canada rejected Lilly’s claim for extended patent protection on two of its drugs.[iv] In an act that shows contempt for the Canadian justice system and the health needs of Canadians, Lilly has now turned to the NAFTA ISDS process, and is claiming $500 million in compensation from the Canadian government.[v]

Under TPP, Canadians will likely face more costly and frivolous ISDS lawsuits like Eli Lilly’s, as well as growing pharmaceutical prices due to longer waits for generic drugs. Powerful pharmaceutical companies, mainly US-based, were not satisfied with the outcome of the TPP negotiations. As a result, it is likely the pharmaceutical industry will be even more assertive in demanding the strictest interpretation of the various provisions of the TPP that relate to medications.[vi]

The recent release of the Panama Papers, and the recent use of “tax inversion merger” strategies by US corporations like drug giant Pfizer[vii], shows clearly how society is warped to corporate favour, and how easy it has become for the rich and powerful to avoid the laws of democratic countries. People around the world are increasingly recognizing and denouncing this blatant injustice. However, the TPP further solidifies corporate power.

The TPP will enhance patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, who claim they need this enhanced protection to provide adequate financial incentives and returns for their research and development (R&D) programs. These claims ring hollow given the large and growing profitability of the pharmaceutical sector,[viii] and the fact that in 2014, according to the federal government’s Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB), the R&D-to-sales ratio of major pharmaceutical corporations fell to its lowest level since the PMPRB began collecting data in 1988.[ix]

The billions of profits seen by the pharmaceutical industry have been fueled by extremely high medication prices. One in ten Canadians are unable to fill their prescriptions due to high prices, resulting in “inhumane health outcomes for much of the population.”[x] High drug costs often lead people to ration or otherwise underuse the prescriptions they do fill. It is estimated that if Canadians used their prescription drugs appropriately, one in every six hospital visits could be eliminated, and $7-9 billion in health care costs could be saved.[xi]

In relation, the TPP’s ISDS would be a major roadblock to the implementation of a Canadian pharmacare plan. Canada is the only developed country in the world that has universal health care but no national drug plan.[xii] Currently, two federal parties support a national pharmacare plan and we know the Liberal government is making drug affordability a major priority. Yet because the TPP enhances patent protection, cheaper generics are kept off the market for longer periods of time. The only feasible way to achieve a pharmacare plan is by ensuring affordable medications.

The TPP also reinforces the trend of so-called free trade deals to install a one-way ratchet in favour of privatization.[xiii] If a Canadian government or public authority chose to contract out a public service, a future government with a different viewpoint could not opt to bring that service back into the public sector without risking a disruptive and expensive ISDS lawsuit.

Particularly of concern in Saskatchewan is the potential for the further privatization of health care services. Saskatchewan contracted out its hospital laundry services and has opened the door to private MRIs; public-private partnership deals (P3s) have become increasingly common. The TPP investment chapter includes a provision on P3s. Although a footnote to the text suggests that the provision does not apply to “healthcare…or other similar social services”[xiv] SEIU-West is concerned that arbitrators will refuse to apply the footnote to health system support services such as maintenance, food services, administration, and other support services that contribute to the health care team.

The risks posed to Canada’s public health care system are seen in a European ISDS case. In 1999 Eureko, a Dutch-based insurance firm, obtained a 30% stake in Poland’s national health insurance provider. In 2001, the Polish government announced it would offer more shares to private companies, a decision that could have allowed Eureko a majority stake. The government later cancelled the share offering in the face of public outcry. Eureko then sued Poland in an ISDS tribunal which ruled in Eureko’s favour, declaring the cancelled shares proposal violated investor protections. The Polish government eventually settled the dispute for an estimated US$1.6 billion.[xv]

It is distressing to know that a choice made by the people could be subject to interference by corporations – big business should not be able to have such an influence in the laws and rules of a sovereign state – if they can, how can it be called a democratic society?

We’re not only seeing everyday citizen concerns but economists, lawyers, doctors and other experts from every stripe are speaking out against the obscene process of ISDS. The former chief economist and vice-president at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are non-discriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm.”[xvi] Economist Paul Krugman has said, “…this is not a trade agreement. It’s about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharma companies and firms that want to sue governments.” Gus van Harten, an Osgoode Law professor and ISDS expert has stated, “The TPP is a threat to our institutions of sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. At the core of the threat is the uncertain and potentially huge price tag that the TPP puts on any law or regulation opposed by a foreign investor.”[xvii] Doctors without Borders have stated that the TPP will “go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines.”[xviii]

It was the Harper government that joined the TPP negotiations in 2012, four years after negotiations began. After becoming an election issue, the newly elected Liberal government told voters that they recognized the TPP’s secrecy; they were then elected on their vision of ‘real change’. Yet in Saskatoon, only 12 witnesses were selected to speak, the majority of whom speak to business interests. Throughout the Saskatoon consultation process, we were made aware that no individual citizens were invited to speak – yet our organization was aware of many who applied. How can we truly call this a public consultation?

Moreover, trade deals are typically negotiated by a handful of trade negotiators alongside a huge amount of business lobbying influence – hence the high amount of copyright and patent information.[xix] If the newly elected government truly wants to ensure transparency, they should not ratify this agreement. The people should have a say in how trade agreements are negotiated, and not just be invited under the false pretense of a public consultation. It is no wonder Saskatchewan people are holding their own noon hour rally and public consultation in response to the lack of transparency surrounding the TPP and its potential ratification.

During TPP negotiations, a small representation of civil society, labour and small business were invited to advise at the negotiating rounds – yet judging from the TPP text, it is clear that while these groups may be invited to the table, it is only big business that is listened to. SEIU-West implores the Standing Committee on International Trade to not only hear what is being said by those who oppose the TPP, but that you listen with intention. Consider the people’s will and right of democracy – at this point, the TPP does not. It should not be ratified.

 

SEIU-West represents more than 13,000 working people in the province of Saskatchewan. Our members work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. Our mandate is to improve the lives of working people and their families, and together lead the way to a more just and humane society.

 

[i] Sinclair, Scott, and Stuart Trew. “The Implications for Canada of a Fast-tracked Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. May-June 2015. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/implications-canada-fast-tracked-trans-pacific-partnership>.

 

Lexchin, Joel. “Involuntary Medication.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/involuntary-medication>.

 

[ii] “TPP Will Be Toothless for Environmental Protection: Study.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Mar. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/tpp-will-be-toothless-environmental-protection-study>.

[iii] Sinclair, Scott. “Major Complications.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/major-complications>.

 

[iv] Lexchin, Joel. “Involuntary Medication.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/involuntary-medication>.

 

[v] Sinclair, Scott, and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. “NAFTA Chapter 11 Investor-State Disputes to January 1, 2015.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Jan. 2015. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/nafta-chapter-11-investor-state-disputes-january-1-2015>.

 

[vi] Lexchin, Joel. “Involuntary Medication.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/involuntary-medication>.

 

[vii] Crowe, Portia. “The Largest Takeover of the Year Is All about Avoiding US Taxes.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 23 Nov. 2015. <http://www.businessinsider.com/pfizer-allergan-deal-tax-inversion-2015-10>.

 

[viii] Chen, Liyan. “The Most Profitable Industries In 2015.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, Sept. 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2015/09/23/the-most-profitable-industries-in-2015/#504f7afd7712>.

 

[ix] Sinclair, Scott. “Major Complications.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/major-complications>.

 

[x] “TPP: Profits Before Patients.” Canadians.org. Council of Canadians, Oct. 2015. <http://canadians.org/blog/tpp-profits-patients>.

 

[xi] Ibid.

 

[xii] Sinclair, Scott. “Major Complications.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/major-complications>.

 

[xiii] Sinclair, Scott. “Major Complications.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/major-complications>.

 

[xiv] Trans-Pacific Partnership. Chapter 9: Investment. Article 9.1. Definitions. P. 9–4.

 

[xv] Sinclair, Scott. “Major Complications.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Feb. 2016. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/major-complications>.

 

[xvi] Stiglitz, Joseph E., and Adam S. Hersh. “The Trans-Pacific Free-trade Charade.” Project Syndicate University of Toronto, Oct. 2015. <https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/gindart/2015-10-02%20-%20The%20Trans-Pacific%20free-trade%20charade.pdf>.

 

[xvii] Van Harten, Gus. “Seven Ways TPP Favours Mega-rich Foreign Investors, Not Canadians | The Tyee.” The Tyee. Jan. 2016. <http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/01/18/TPP-Foreign-Investors/>.

 

[xviii] Rius Sanjuan, Judit. “Statement by MSF on the Conclusion of TPP Negotiations in Atlanta.” MSF USA. Doctors Without Borders, 05 Oct. 2015. <http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/statement-msf-conclusion-tpp-negotiations-atlanta>.

 

[xix]Trew, Stewart. “Stuart Trew Unpacks the Trans-Pacific Partnership on The Agenda.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. N.d.. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/updates/stuart-trew-unpacks-trans-pacific-partnership-agenda>.

For the pdf version of this brief, click on the link below:

Submission by Service Employees’ International Union-West to the Standing Committee on International Trade regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

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SEIU-West Submission to the Saskatchewan Government on MRI Privatization: Bill 179

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