Privatization, contracting out, declining urban infrastructure and sharing federal tax dollars with cities were passionately discussed at the sector meeting. While members said there were different perspectives on common issues, one thing was clear, it is so important that supportive councilors be elected in each city and town where CUPE members work.
President Paul Moist spoke about the ‘new deal for cities’ and how CUPE is going to give cities new resources. But he emphasized that there were huge demands on this revenue and a prevailing attitude of tax cutting in councils across Canada.
“For the first time in decades, city issues - our issues - are on the federal political agenda,” he said, and CUPE is going to be actively speaking on behalf of municipal workers.
National representative Greg Mandzuk, working with CUPE 500 (Winnipeg city workers) described how garbage collection in Winnipeg was contracted out recently. A video showed delegates how the campaign to save jobs was organized and what led to the defeat at city council. He noted that a key lesson from losing this campaign was how important it was to have elected officials who could understand, appreciate and support keeping services public.
Sylvie Morin (Local 2334) told delegates how public transit funding in Quebec was dealt with in 2003-04. She focused on the local’s coordinated approach and the importance of member action. She noted how the campaign to stop P3 urban transit focused attention on how the private sector, government officials, unionized workers and the public played roles in keeping transit services efficient. Hundreds of members got involved and turned government sponsored consultations into a forum for the union which eventually got the government to withdraw their proposal to address transit needs through P3 means.
Delegates discussed some convention resolutions, saying priorities were those that help the union build support for a ‘new deal for cities’ and get more funding for infrastructure.
Other issues raised dealt with keeping urban water systems public, helping members working with the RCMP, and fighting contracting out. Specifically, resolutions 273, 236, 209, 211, 237, 209 were prioritized for consideration by the resolutions committee.
Delegates also agreed to get an emergency resolution to support the members of CUPE 500 who fought and lost the battle to keeping solid waste collection jobs public in Winnipeg.