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Despite the strong winds and threat of snow, 400 CUPE Local 37 members (City of Calgary outside workers), AFL delegates and park users marched to Prince’s Island Park on Friday to protest the City of Calgary’s plan to outsource parks, irrigation services and the maintenance of south cemeteries.

The pride and excellence of the work that our members do are second to none,” said CUPE Local 37 president Kevin Galley. Galley reminded the crowd of previous attempts at contracting out that failed miserably. “It was our members who had to complete the shoddy work that was done.”

The City attempted to contract out the asphalt plant but CUPE Local 37 campaigned and succeeded in keeping it public and it remains a very productive operation. They also tried contracting out street cleaning but CUPE Local 37 members proved they did it better and more cost-effectively. When the City contracted out south cemeteries the maintenance was so bad that it went to weed, and the work was again brought back in house.

Galley noted that CUPE Local 37 members work “for their neighbours, families and friends” unlike private operators who do the work for a profit.

Contracting out of parks, irrigation, and south cemeteries affects not only the citizens who use them, but also the students that would have benefited from working as a seasonal worker in these areas,” said Galley. “These students will not have the opportunity to work this summer for the City.”

CUPE National President Paul Moist attended the rally and got a warm welcome from the large crowd. “Public services make Calgary a better place and we don’t accept the contracting out of any public work,” Moist said.

Moist said that university students graduate with $30 – 40,000 of debt and should get ‘a fair wage for a fair days work’ and need access to City jobs.

Moist told the large group that Calgary Mayor Nenshi was recently in Toronto – a city “at war with its public employees”, Nenshi told reporters that he didn’t think it would work in Calgary because Calgary has good relations with their employees.

Mayor Nenshi, take control over the administration of the City of Calgary and get the Request for Proposals off the books,” urged Moist. “Keep this work public.”

Moist said that CUPE is proud to negotiate for fair wages, fair benefits and comprehensive public services to serve communities across Canada.

Rally participants signed a picnic blanket banner to keep services in Calgary public.