September 4, 2017: Labour Day Message

A Labour Day Message for healthcare workers everywhere 

For many, Labour Day symbolizes the last long weekend of summer to enjoy the outdoors before fall, but It’s also a day set aside to reflect on the contributions the labour movement has made, and continues to make, to build stronger, healthier and more equal communities across Canada.

Often the word “union” brings to mind the traditional concepts of collective bargaining, minimum wage, sick and parental leave, and yes, even strikes. This however, only scratches the surface of all the work unions do.

In health care, nursing unions are leading advocates for safe staffing. This benefits their members, the entire health care team, and most importantly, patients. With enough frontline staff of all designations working on a unit, patient outcomes improve. When the whole team has enough time to dedicate to their patients, everyone feels supported. Team morale goes up and stress levels, burnout and staff turnover go down. This promotes improved performance, fewer mistakes and better, safer patient care.

Nursing unions also give their members a voice so they feel supported when advocating for patients. The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) works closely with employers to establish critical feedback channels to improve patient care. Open communication is a crucial part of health transformation and SUN is a respected stakeholder government regularly turns to for solutions.

A major strength of nursing unions is their in-depth understanding of health by virtue of their membership’s knowledge. As the largest group of direct care providers, registered nurses have always acted as agents for change. Today, their system-wide, frontline perspective, and clinical expertise continues to drive quality, model of care and policy improvements, while advancing innovation that’s changing the face of health care. Registered nurses always look at a problem from a patient perspective, but it’s their union’s support that empowers them to turn ideas into action.

Nursing unions make a difference beyond provincial health systems. Whether united across the country advocating for a national pharmacare plan that will ensure better access to affordable prescription drugs for all, or working to protect Canada’s public health system, nursing unions are committed to everyone’s health and wellbeing. 

In Saskatchewan, SUN actively addresses community health holistically; an approach at the core of nursing practice. Annually, SUN supports community organizations tackling the social determinants of health. By addressing food and housing insecurity, or unemployment, education and mental health challenges on the frontend, SUN is helping people stay healthier and out of the system longer.

Labour Day is so much more than celebrating worker’s rights, and union achievements, it’s about recognizing that by working together we can raise each other up, and do so much good in this world. This is more than a trade union philosophy, it’s a Canadian value we all hold dear.

Tracy Zambory, RN

President, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses