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VICTORIA—Whistles blew, sirens wailed and hundreds of leaflets were handed out at a rally at UVic on February 8. CUPE members from six BC universities joined allies in Victoria to raise awareness about threats to public services. The rally occurred in the wake of more privatization threats at the University of Victoria and anger about government limits on free collective bargaining for ambulance paramedics bargaining.

“It’s important to protect our public services for the next generation,” said Nancy Forhan, president of CUPE 2950 at UBC.

“We’re here today in solidarity with paramedics in their quest for a fair contract settlement and for every worker whose job is threatened by privatization,” said Steve Storch, president of CUPE 3799 at the University of Northern BC.

CUPE members were joined by students, faculty and members of the Professional Employees Association at UVic. The rally started outdoors and then moved inside, snaking its way through stairways and corridors inside with chants of “UVic is not for sale!”

“Whether it’s UVic or Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, public education is fundamental to the wellbeing of our communities,” said Rachel Champagne, president of CUPE 4879 at Thompson Rivers University.

Sylvia Richardson, president of CUPE 3338 at SFU, described privatization as ‘taxation without representation.’ “If the public paid for it, it should remain in public hands,” she said.

The CUPE Universities Coordinated Bargaining Committee (UCBC) was meeting at UVic to prepare for sector-wide bargaining and to send a strong message that it’s time that the government stop attacking public services, increase funding for health and education, and restore the ability for employers and unions to engage in free collective bargaining without government controls.