On October 1, retired OPSEU members from Region 5 (Toronto) met to hear an update on OPS bargaining and the Liberal government’s demand to slash prescription drug coverage for some 100,000 active and retired OPSEU-represented OPS employees.
After the meeting, an energized group of retirees took up arms and marched to the office of Deb Matthews, Treasury Board President and Minister Responsible for Poverty Reduction (sic). Most of these retirees had participated in the strikes of 1996 and 2002 – they knew the drill. There they delivered a strongly worded letter demanding that the Liberals withdraw their cruel plan to gut retirees’ drug coverage.
Neither Matthews nor her deputy minister, Greg Orenczak, was “available” to receive the retirees’ message. However, Sofie Di Muzio, a senior member of Orenczak’s staff, came out to accept the letter and listen to the retirees’ concerns.
Myles Magner, OPSEU Executive Board Member for Region 5, spoke to the government’s drastic cuts to drug coverage, which threaten the financial and physical health of thousands of retirees. “Most of our retirees survive on modest pensions and can ill afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more each year for prescription drugs. After their many years of loyal service to the Province, these treacherous cuts could drive some seniors into poverty.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas hailed the retirees’ determination to make their voices heard. “Kathleen Wynne and Deb Matthews like to talk about being grandmothers. But unlike many OPS retirees, these grandmothers will never have to choose between paying for drugs or buying healthy food. The Liberals are hell-bent on taking from the poor and vulnerable, and giving to the rich and powerful. It’s disgraceful.”
The Liberals want to reduce the 90 per cent (less a $3 deductible) that they currently pay to a three‑tiered system. Tier 1 drugs would still be covered at 80 per cent, while tier 2 drugs would be covered at 50 per cent and tier 3 drugs at just 20 per cent. A government-hired third party would decide which drugs fell into which tier. It is not hard to guess that the more expensive the drug, the higher the percentage that patients will pay.
Over the summer, Region 2 retirees met with St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley to discuss the proposed cuts, and Region 5 retirees are planning to follow suit with visits to Liberal MPPs’ offices. They will pursue their “full and frank” discussion on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new war on drugs – and on the seniors, families and children who depend on them.
For more information about OPSEU's Retired Members Division, click here.
Related: OPS Bargaining 2014 Index Page