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CUPE delegates joined hundreds of public sector trade unionists from the Americas at the Public Services International (PSI) regional conference in Cartagena, Colombia September 7 to 12, 2010. Water and sanitation, energy, health and education were the focus of discussion and debate as we worked to build a common action plan to defend and promote quality public services.

By meeting in Colombia, union activists from every country in the Americas sent a strong message to the newly elected Colombian government. Repression and violence against trade unionists in Colombia must stop and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  

Claude Généreux, national secretary-treasurer led the delegation that included Yolanda McClean, diversity vice-president, Sinda Cathcart, president of local 3967 in Saskatchewan, Kelti Cameron, research officer for Municipalities and Rhonda Spence, international officer.

Brother Claude made a presentation to the Climate Change workshop about CUPE’s efforts to decrease our carbon footprint. Rhonda Spence traveled to Bogota to present on water and sanitation to a conference sponsored by Colombia’s largest water workers union. 

The meeting was very exciting and included many highlights including a moving speech from Dukens Raphael from the Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers (CTSP) in Haiti, and a determined and enthusiastic report from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) workshop.

It was inspiring to meet sisters and brothers from every country in the Americas,” said Sinda Cathcart from local 3967 in Saskatchewan. “We face common challenges and need a common vision. Hearing about the dangerous circumstances that trade unionists face in many countries I was struck with the comment…’ hope is the fundamental virtue of democracy – where there is no hope there is no democracy.”

Yolanda McClean noted, “This conference had the highest participation of women ever. Sisters from every country share the same concerns: lack of child care, the casualization of work, pay equity and domestic violence. In every country, racialized women and aboriginal sisters are even more marginalized.”

Delegates adopted a comprehensive action plan for the next three years. CUPE delegates came away from the conference with a renewed sense of commitment for the global campaign for quality public services.