A Pioneer Passes
Betty Westrik, a retired CLAC representative, passed away suddenly on November 18, 2015, at the age of 72.
Betty was CLAC’s first female representative at a time when most union reps were male. She paved the way for many women who followed and became CLAC representatives. To many of them, she was a mentor and a friend. She served as a regional director in Mississauga and Chatham, Ontario, and also served on CLAC’s executive committee. She retired in 2009 with the distinction of being CLAC’s longest-serving employee.
Betty began her CLAC career in 1967 as a bookkeeper and later as a research assistant in the early 1970s when CLAC established a research and education department. In the early 1980s, she began working as a union representative and spearheaded CLAC’s growth and influence in the long term care field in Ontario.
Betty was fearless, feisty, and tenacious, whether dealing with chronic funding shortages, legislative changes, anti-union and anti-CLAC militancy, and management indifference and glaring incompetence. She co-authored several taskforce reports and submissions to government outlining the harm funding shortages were causing to residents of long term care homes and the people who cared for them.
Betty was a pioneer when it came to collective agreement language in healthcare. She pioneered the working-short premium, paid leave bank, and the ability of workers to drop one or two shifts and maintain their full-time status. These innovative contract articles have made a real difference in the lives of thousands of healthcare workers. Their development was sparked by the changing conditions of Ontario’s system of senior care over the years, which placed an ever-increasing burden on the working lives of front-line caregivers.
Betty is missed by the many members and staff whose lives she touched. Her contributions in the long term care field live on as a testament to her pioneering spirit.