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(Quebec City Convention) CUPE members wrapped up their national convention in Quebec City this morning, vowing to fight governments that threaten to cut public services and sell them off to multinational corporations. Two provinces were repeatedly singled out by delegates:

  • British Columbia, where Gordon Campbells Liberals are privatizing hospitals and health care services
  • Quebec, where Jean Charests Liberals are reversing progressive labour laws

Charest and Campbell are proving that Liberals can be just as cruel as Conservatives when it comes to eliminating the services that Canadians value most, said Paul Moist, the new National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. But CUPE members have established a plan of action, and we wont stop until every public service in every province and territory is protected.

Two thousand delegates, representing 535,000 members across the country, set two main objectives for the next two years: building their clout at the bargaining table and stepping up the fight against privatization.

On the bargaining front, CUPE members have pledged to form stronger solidarity pacts within every sector and province. That way, when one group of CUPE members is attacked such as in a strike or lock-out others will automatically show their support. Delegates also voted to turn up the heat on privatizers by agreeing to develop a labour movement-wide strategy against public-private partnerships (P3s). CUPE is promising to resist all deals that allow the private sector to earn profits from public money, as well as all pension fund investments that help P3s.

To put the unions money where its mouth is, CUPE delegates also voted to strengthen the unions national strike fund, so that it has enough capital to fight concessions, improve wages and stop privatization.

No government in Canada has been given a mandate from voters to privatize valuable public services like health care, said Claude Gnreux, CUPEs National Secretary-Treasurer, who was re-elected for a second term this week. We will scrutinize every government that sells off their services to wealthy private interest groups and hold them accountable, just like we did in this months election in Ontario.

It was a busy week for delegates. They elected Moist, a long time CUPE leader from Manitoba and re-elected Gnreux, past president of CUPE Quebec. As well, delegates voted overwhelmingly to support same-sex marriage, reject the First Nations Governance Act and stop the violence in the Middle East through immediate implementation of United Nations resolutions.

CUPE has once again proven that it is not only Canadas largest union, it is also Canadas most progressive, said Moist. Im proud that our members continually give their time, support and money to causes that support global justice. To that end, delegates approved a motion to raise $1 from every member for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a new charity that raises money for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Lewis was one of the keynote speakers at the convention, and brought delegates to their feet when he pounded his fist on the podium and asked why tens of billions of dollars could be found to fight the war on Iraq while millions of people are being neglected in other parts of the world.

Delegates also passed an emergency resolution that denounces the leadership of the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers Union (IWA) for undercutting wages and benefits for hospital workers in British Columbia. The debate about the IWAs tactics was one of the most emotional of the week, as health care workers stood at the convention podiums and tearfully told delegates how much their CUPE jobs mean to them.

Most delegates wont have much time to rest before they get on with the business of resisting corporate-friendly politicians. Within the next ten days, there are very important elections in Canada: the provincial election in Saskatchewan and the municipal elections in Ontario, including the race for mayor of Toronto which is pitting public sector supporter David Miller against the career privateer John Tory. And CUPE members in Newfoundland and Labrador will be watching closely as the new Conservative premier, Danny Williams, is sworn in next week. The message for Williams will be the same as the message for all other premiers who have flirted with P3s Not a penny for profit!

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For more information:
Kaj Hasselriis, CUPE Communications, 613-798-6925