Sarah Ryan and Karin Jordan | CUPE
The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) will rely on expensive lending from the private-sector to build or renew our water and wastewater systems, public transit, roads and electrical grids, where many CUPE members work.
The bank will allow corporations and private lenders unprecedented access to – and power over – our public infrastructure. The Liberals introduced legislation to create the bank as part of their omnibus budget bill. The bank is expected to be up and running in late 2017.
The bank of privatization
The bank’s focus is on infrastructure that can generate revenue for investors. This for-profit motive will increase the privatization of public infrastructure and impose higher fees and tolls on us all. Higher government payments for private infrastructure will also mean fewer public dollars are available for all of our infrastructure needs.
Our public facilities might be privatized through public-private partnerships, many of which involve contracts of up to 30 years with for-profit corporations to finance, maintain and operate public infrastructure. Our airports and ports, and other key infrastructure, could even be fully or partly sold to private investors.
Workers will pay the price, too. The CIB’s focus on privatization will put pressure on the wages, benefits and working conditions of all workers, including CUPE members in the sectors being targeted by the bank. Contract flipping and low-waged precarious work are key ways private corporations can profit from infrastructure.
There are many things locals can do to prepare for this new privatization threat. Here are the top three:
1. Review your collective agreement:
CUPE locals can use their collective agreement language to protect against privatization. Locals have negotiated language to provide notice, disclosure and consultation about privatization schemes. Some have language preventing contracting out. Others have bargained language to contract in services. Review Our Best Line of Defence for more information.
2. Understand privatization risks:
Stay on top of your employer’s plans by taking action and talking regularly with supervisors, managers and local politicians. Get volunteers to take turns attending all public meetings of the employer. Listen closely to statements that managers and politicians make in the media and at public events. Members, especially those in the municipal sector, should raise concerns about the bank with mayors and municipal councillors. Identify contractors already operating at your workplace and anticipate other work they may go after.
3. Know the facts:
Check out CUPE’s resources to help members, the public and decisionmakers understand why public works best for our services. They include:
- Stopping privatization guide: Early warning signs of privatization
- Stopping the infrastructure bank: CUPE’s online resource centre about the infrastructure bank
- Asking the right questions: A guide for municipalities considering P3s
- Back in house: Why local governments are bringing services home
- Bring it on home: How CUPE campaigns are keeping services public.
Find out more about fighting privatization by contacting your servicing representative or visit cupe.ca/privatization for more information.