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The BC government has launched a wholesale attack on union contracts, public services and the people of British Columbia. No government in Canada before has done what Premier Gordon Campbell is doing in BC. Regressive programs that took Ontarios Mike Harris and Albertas Ralph Klein several years to carry out are being put in place by the Campbell government in a matter of months. Nothing is being left untouched. Every public service is a target, as are seniors, women, the poor, children at risk and childrens education.

Gordon Campbell is attacking our collective agreement rights and the right to free collective bargaining. He is doing it with surgical precision: getting rid of any language and rights that stand in the way of cuts and outright privatization. He is stripping away the wage gains of women workers, particularly in the community social service sector, including child care and community health. He is getting rid of what took years of struggle to win.

He is also setting the stage to de-unionize the province through privatization and massive cuts as well as through changes in how public services are funded and delivered. His agenda is clearly the transfer of public wealth to private hands. Thats why his budget gives tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest ten per cent; tax cuts that are funded through service cuts, sales taxes, new user fees, tuition hikes and the de-listing of drugs and medical services from the provincial health plan. Spending on capital projects in the health care sector has been cut by more than half over two years, while the province aggressively pursues Private Finance Initiatives or Public Private Partnerships. Spending on childrens services will fall by one quarter. And funding will be increased for private schools while it is decreased for public schools. B.C.s provincial ambulance service, which provides equitable service regardless of where a patient lives, is also being threatened by plans to regionalize and download it to municipalities. Its an outrage. Its a declaration of war against working people.

But the good news is that the working people of British Columbia are fighting back and both CUPE BC and HEU, our BC Health Services division, are playing a major role in leading the defence. On February 23rd, Claude Gnreux and I had the privilege of attending one of the largest labour protests in the provinces history. We were thirty to thirty-five thousand strong, workers and citizens, united and determined. I have had many, many proud moments as CUPEs National President and I can honestly say that this was one of the best. But what makes me especially proud is to hear and see how much both CUPE BC and HEU have already done to mobilize and organize against the BC government. They are laying the ground work for a long-drawn out battle but, at the same time, they are doing an amazing job responding to the many immediate threats to our members and our communities. They are reaching out to rank and file members; they are setting up the structures and networks to be able to respond effectively and quickly to each new announcement; and they are building a powerful movement in our local unions and in our communities in defence of public services, in defence of our collective agreement rights, and in defence of our jobs.

To say that the challenges facing us in British Columbia are enormous is an understatement. Our members there need the support and solidarity of every CUPE member across the country. The fact is that if Gordon Campbell can get away with the destruction of public services and collective agreements, no collective agreement in any province with a right-wing government is safe. And no public service anywhere is safe. So, there is no question that we must mobilize support everywhere to help our sisters and brothers in the months and years ahead. And as part of this effort, Brother Claude and I will be recommending to the National Executive Board a significant financial contribution to CUPE BC and HEU for their mobilizing efforts, as well as additional staff and legal support. We will also be providing all local unions with regular updates on the situation through our national publications.