OTTAWA – A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Canadian public sector unions announced today that they will provide financial and technical assistance to rebuild the headquarters of an important Haitian labour organization.
The money is directed specifically to rebuilding the office of the Confédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses des secteurs public et privé (CTSP, Confederation of Private and Public Sector Workers), in Port-au-Prince. Plans for the new building have already been approved and construction will begin in the spring.
“It is not enough to promise aid; we have to deliver,” said Claude Généreux, national secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), whose organization has played an important leadership role in this project.
The CTSP represents over 8,000 workers, particularly in the areas of health, education, electricity and municipal services. Currently, the CTSP is operating under a 10-by-12-foot tent. The new headquarters will help the union to meet the needs of its members and play a proactive role in the reconstruction of Haiti. The present chaos is obviously an obstacle to reconstruction, as are epidemics and ongoing political instability.
Recent reports show that a considerable share of the money promised by donor countries has not been delivered, and also highlight the appalling living conditions of millions of Haitians. Généreux notes as a prime example of the difficulties and delays in the reconstruction the fact that less than five percent of the rubble from the last year’s earthquake has been removed.
“Haitian workers and unions are now in the field, contributing to the reconstruction with their fellow citizens, all under extremely difficult conditions. The Haitian unions need to organize this action,” said Généreux. “This contribution from the Canadian unions to the Haitian unions will have a direct impact in the field and will provide the necessary infrastructure. It’s our way of supporting democracy and civil society in Haiti.”
The unions involved in this project include CUPE, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec (SFPQ) and the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS). These unions have pledged a $50,000 contribution, which represents the estimated project costs. Généreux hopes that other North American unions will support the project, within the framework provided by Public Services International (PSI), which would mean that it would be carried out and managed jointly with the Haitian unions.
“Our contribution is modest, but it is real and palpable,” said Généreux. “We believe this project will represent a positive example of effective aid. This inspiring collaboration between unions also shows that solidarity is more than just a fine ideal; this solidarity is rooted in concrete action. In a context where aid in Haiti seems less effective than it could be, we need more of these small success stories.”
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