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TORONTO Many of the 200,000 Canadian Union of Public Employee members in Ontario will be marching on Labour Day this year with a message to vote for public services in upcoming provincial, municipal and school board elections.

Our members have lived the reality of cutbacks and downloading for eight years under the Harris and Eves Conservatives, said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. Like all other Ontario residents, CUPE members send their children to under-funded public schools, endure long waits for health care, make do with limited home care for their elderly parents, and bear with Conservative government excesses like the $206,000 spent on the Magna budget.

But all of those service cuts also threaten CUPE members livelihoods, he said. Outright privatization as well as public-private partnerships, or P3s, are touted by all levels of government determined to cut costs in every sector from water treatment to custodial and maintenance services in schools and hospitals, from arenas and other public facilities to social services.

Yet, when crises hit like the Hydro blackout, SARS, BSE and forest fires public sector workers save the day, Ryan said. Our communities need those people, but we learned during the SARS crisis especially just how devastating the cuts have been. Health care workers are forced to work more than one job with strenuous workloads. And we simply cannot rely on private, profit-making companies to keep our health care facilities clean and free of contamination.

Those were the big crises, Ryan said, but there are smaller crises being experienced by families across Ontario every day. School boards have been cutting the number of educational assistants even though the need among children continues to grow. Home care hours are minimal for people with the most serious needs, and home care workers are struggling to survive on near-poverty level wages in some cases.

We have members marching on Labour Day who earn $23,000 a year not much more than the increase the Conservatives are proposing MPPs get every year on top of what they already earn. Thats a disgusting proposal that should be dropped, he said.

While a few wealthy Ontarians have enjoyed generous tax cuts under the Conservatives, most of us are fed up with trying to cope with the results, Ryan said. After eight years, its clear that this government is not going to change. So, its time to change the government. Its as easy as marking a ballot.

CUPE Ontario is urging members to make the strength of their 200,000 votes count, he said. The most important activities public sector workers can undertake this fall are to get involved in helping the campaigns of candidates at all levels provincial, municipal and school board who support public services, and turning out to vote on election day.

An investment in public services is an investment in the health, well-being and efficient functioning of our communities, Ryan said. Thats the message well be getting out on Labour Day.


For more information, contact:

Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
416-209-0066 (cell)

Pat Daley, CUPE Communications
416-299-9739 Ext 264
416-616-6142 (cell)