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NORTH BATTLEFORD: The Canadian Union of Public Employees denounced the City of North Battleford today for reducing the hours of work of the local president who has spoken out against a water privatization proposal the city is considering.

The union filed an unfair labour practice against the city today.

“The message the city is sending is clear - if you criticize your employer or stand up for your rights, your employment is not secure,” said Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan.

On October 24, city commissioner Jim Toye sent Barb Plews, a 20-year city employee and president of CUPE Local 287, a letter stating that her hours of work would be reduced from 40 to 20 hours a week.

The previous day, CUPE Local 287 launched a publicity campaign to raise awareness about a public-private partnership proposal made by U.S. Filter Canada to build and operate a new sewage treatment plant in North Battleford. The city has refused to rule out the privatization proposal.

CUPE’s unfair labour practice application says the reduction of hours is an act of direct intimidation intended to prevent Plews from performing her duties as local president and is, therefore, a violation of the Trade Union Act

“Barb Plews has played a central role in the campaign against privatizing water and has been an articulate media spokesperson,” said Graham. “This long-time employee was defending a vital public service and protecting the jobs of her union members and suddenly her full-time job becomes part-time. The city’s actions are reprehensible.”

“North Battleford’s municipal workers have consistently spoken out about the threats to their city’s water supply. They should be commended for this, not reprimanded.”

An emergency resolution condemning the actions of the city was carried unanimously at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Convention this morning.

CUPE Local 287 represents 123 municipal workers in North Battleford, including sewer and water plant operators.

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For more information contact CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham
at 229-8171.