CUPE members and staff right across the country continue to take on the privatization of public services at countless numbers of bargaining tables, in every sector and in every province.
On October 19, the Harris government introduced legislation to allow private universities in Ontario. The plan will drain the public system of resources and increase the influence of the private sector over programs and research. CUPE university workers have submitted a brief to the government pointing out the dangers to accessibility and academic freedom with the introduction of two-tier university education. Bill 132 is part of a concerted effort on the part of the government and corporations to: lower wages, undermine working conditions, increase the number of temporary workers and threaten jobs in public institutions with the use of non-union contractors. CUPE is continuing to fight against this Bill being passed into law.
Local 416 in the City of Toronto has won a major victory working with progressive politicians and community activists to stop the plan to haul the citys garbage to the abandoned Adams Mine in northern Ontario. The plan involved contracting out the waste haulage to a multinational corporation with a shabby environmental record and with questionable business practices. The issue became a major municipal election issue as activists from across the province, particularly residents from the affected area in Kirkland Lake, descended on City Hall in a mass protest. As part of the action against the privatization scheme, Local 416 released a plan for wet-dry recycling a public, environmentally sensitive and realistic solution to the Toronto garbage crisis.
In Kingston, Local 109, municipal employees, recently joined forces with community activists to take action against city councils plan to privatize garbage and recycling pick-up. The Kingston Coalition Against Privatization ran advertisements, lobbied council members and distributed leaflets to every household in the city outlining the higher costs of private garbage collection. As a result, the council voted to defeat the proposal and waste services in Kingston remain in public hands.
In Thunder Bay, ambulance paramedics with the Kenora-Patrick municipal ambulance service have been waging a vigorous campaign to ensure the municipality keeps ambulance services public. Using direct mail leaflets, town hall meetings, news releases and editorial pieces, the local is pulling out all the stops to protect ambulance services from for-profit, private sector operators.
Health care workers in Saskatchewan defeated a plan to close two health care centres in the South East Health District. Both centres provide long-term care, homecare, a wellness clinic and other health services in the district. One of the centres to be closed was being considered for conversion to a private personal care home. By getting local residents to voice their opposition at public meetings and signing a petition, CUPE has forced the District to back away from the plan.
HEU, representing CUPE health care workers in British Columbia has developed a contracting-in toolkit containing valuable information for locals to fight contracting-out.
The toolkit contains examples of contracting-in success stories, highlights contract language to prevent contracting-out and includes a list of actions at the local level to ensure health care delivery remains public.
CUPE can claim a major victory in the ongoing battle in Halifax to keep the huge multinationals from taking over control of water and wastewater treatment in the city. The Water Watch Committee was successful in making the harbour clean-up and long-term plan for new waste treatment facilities a major issue in the municipal election in October. They held weekly information pickets, ran billboard advertising, appeared on talk shows and held press conferences all through the election campaign. A survey done by the committee revealed that most candidates for council favoured the public option.
In the recent municipal elections, a mayor was elected who is on record as being in favour of keeping the facilities public. However, new mayor, Peter Kelly says that while he supports public ownership and operation of the four new treatment plants to be built, hell choose the most cost-effective solution. Currently, the city is awaiting proposals from three private water corporations along with an analysis of a public option prepared by the private sector. The Water Watch Committee will be active in ensuring that the new mayor takes all factors into account when it comes time to make the final decision.
In Newfoundland, CUPE members are actively lobbying to ensure that the clean-up of St. Johns Harbour is not a vehicle for the private sector to take over water services. St. Johns, Mount Pearl and Paradise all dump raw sewage into the harbour and the three municipalities are looking at building new sewage treatment facilities. CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador has been working with community groups and lobbying the three municipalities in order to make sure the facilities are publicly owned and operated. As a result of an initial meeting, mayor Andy Wells in St. Johns says he seriously questions the motives of private sector water companies who claim that they can provide cheaper services and maintain the same quality as the citys own employees.
CUPE 900 in British Columbia is taking action in order to prevent the City of Kamloops from cracking a deal for a PPP to upgrade the water treatment facilities. Kamloops water presently fails to meet Canadian guidelines for safe water. In fact, the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control has stated it is not a matter of if but when an outbreak of water borne disease will occur in Kamloops. Local 900 agrees completely that the facilities need upgrading. The local has submitted a brief to the City of Kamloops that points out the significant cost savings if the project were to be kept public, and exposes the dangers of privatization such as a loss of accountability using examples from other jurisdictions.
Vancouver is the latest target for the big multinationals looking to expand their control over global water resources. The water filtration plant for the Seymour water basin where there are significant turbidity problems is in need of major renewal. The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) has issued a Request for Proposal to design, build and operate a new water filtration plant for the Seymour water basin. What is alarming for water watchers is that this is the first time the big multinationals have been involved in water projects in the province. The $120 million project has attracted Thames Water, Azurix and U.S. Filter some of the biggest and most notorious water companies whose records around the world include skyrocketing water prices. This project would allow the private sector to establish an important presence in the province. While the GVRD employees affected are not CUPE members, the Division is working with them to start to build opposition to this proposal.
CUPE has been very successful to date at the local level in stopping water privatization in many communities across the country since we made water a priority issue in our anti-privatization campaign. And we must continue our efforts. The big multinationals are hungry for inroads into the Canadian water markets and the quality of water under public control will continue to be a major public policy issue for Canadians. In order to move forward, we are proposing to hold a meeting of water workers from locals across the country in the New Year to develop a CUPE plan to improve water quality. This meeting will include a lobby of MPs and government officials on all water issues ranging from quality, public ownership and control, to the needs for infrastructure funding.
A major international conference on water is being planned by a coalition of organizations, including CUPE, to take place in July 2001 in Vancouver. The conference will bring activists from around the world together to develop strategies to take on the multinationals and the threat of trade agreements that put our public water services at risk.
As our government prepares for talks that threaten the security of public services in Canada, it is absolutely necessary that we continue to expose the dangers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to our members and the general public. In the coming year, we will continue our active participation as a member of the Common Front on the WTO. The Common Front is planning community teach-ins to take place across the country for which we need maximum CUPE support and participation. In order to develop a greater understanding of the threat of international trade to our jobs and services amongst our members, as well as to encourage participation in growing popular protests, CUPE is preparing fact
sheets on the implications of the GATS for each of the CUPE sectors. At the same time, we are developing our own education modules to be delivered in workshops through Union Development.
A particular focus in the New Year will be to organize maximum CUPE participation in the actions against the upcoming summit of the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) being held in Quebec City in April. The FTAA is an organization that is devoted to creating a single free trade agreement for all countries in the Western Hemisphere. Because of the growing democratic protest to free trade and globalization, the government of Canada is working hard to silence activists and prevent protests in Quebec City in April. We are working with our coalition partners and the CLC to plan to make our voices heard.
CUPE has been working with child care advocates, anti-poverty groups and other unions on a national campaign to pressure the government to ensure its promised early development strategy is truly a plan for accessible, high quality, comprehensive and integrated early childhood development services. CUPE has set up a petition to push for the kind of program that meets the needs of Canadas children and we have collected 35,000 signatures as part of the Sign on for Canadas Kids campaign.
For the federal election, the coalition developed materials to raise the profile of child care specifically as an election issue. The three demands were:
- child care is the cornerstone of a comprehensive set of early childhood development services that children and families need;
- we need a significant increase in the federal financial contribution beginning with an initial commitment of $2 billion in the next fiscal year;
- we need clear implementation plans, with targets and timelines, for the development of child care and related services across Canada.
Now that the election is over, the campaign will revolve around contacting the new MPs, asking them for a commitment on child care and using the original petition to promote child care in the upcoming federal budget.