CUPE Local 500
June 10, 2003
CUPE Local 500 is pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you on this most important matter. We represent all employees in the Water and Waste Department below the level of management.
Our members have worked closely with Water and Waste Department over the years to improve the service we provide to the public. Our work has centered around the introduction of the Computerized Work Management System (CWMS), cross-training, skills based compensation, and we are currently readying the workforce for the mandatory water worker certification arising out of new provincial regulations.
In each of these endeavours we have worked closely with management, and our members look forward to continuing the positive labour-management approach as we move towards the construction of Winnipeg’s first Water Treatment Plant.
We urge you to consider the following points in support of the recommendation before you.
Local 500, from the outset of planning for the Water Treatment Plant, voiced our recommendation that this facility be publicly owned and operated. We have also expressed our concerns with privatization and our willingness to work with the City (see appended presentation to EPC, October 28, 1999, Appendix 1).
The decision to create a WTP reserve fund ten years ago was a prudent move on the part of the City. This reserve contains almost one-third of the required funds for this project (total cost - $215 million). This, coupled with the City’s improved credit rating, make the internal financing of the project (and ownership by the City) the most economical and prudent option.
Our City has, since its inception, worked closely with the private sector. The private sector has historically done much of the work contained in the City’s annual Capital Budget.
Public-Private-Partnerships in today’s world are something vastly different than the historical partnering described in the previous paragraph.
CUPE is adamantly opposed to turning over the public sector to private hands through PPP’s. Last year we outlined our concerns with PPP’s to North Battleford City Council (Appendix 2).
We urge you to review this document. It deals with some critical points:
- Problems with PPP’s
- no financial savings with P3’s
- loss of public accountability
- implications of International Trade Agreement.
- Background on U.S. Filter/Vivendi
- international record
- experience of U.S. Filter in North America.
- The trend to reject PPP’s
- e.g.’s of municipalities that have rejected P3’s in water and sewage treatment (i.e., Kamloops; Lady Smith, Greater Vancouver Regional District, Moncton, Montreal, St. John, N.B.
- public opinion polls show the public opposes privatization of water systems.
Again, we urge you to review Appendix 2 in its entirety.
Independent research on the privatization of municipal water and waste water systems in the U.S. have raised many concerns.
A study by the Office of the Inspector General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Appendix 3) concluded:
“The complexity of the DBO approach makes long-term DBO contracting for water and wastewater services a risky venture for a municipal government. Few cities have the in-house legal, technical, and financial expertise necessary to structure such a critical contract.”
With respect to time lines, the Administrative Report before you cites a delay of up to one year should you reject their recommendation and proceed with the “…public consultation, proposal process and contract negotiations associated with a DBO.”
You should avoid such a delay, it is not necessary. The City recently provided all citizens with its 2003 Water Quality Report, which advised the public that the Water Treatment Plant will be operational by 2007.
The Administration’s recommendation cites a potential for a lower level of local private sector participation under the DBO option.
Again, our City has a long association with local private construction firms in terms of our capital works. You ought to proceed with the “construction management” option in order to both complete the project in a timely way and to maximize the use of local firms.
The City should save the $300,000 associated with full consideration of the DBO option. There is no public mood for the private ownership and operation of the Water Treatment Plant.
Poll after poll confirms that Canadians are increasingly wary of privatization. When it comes to water related infrastructure, Canadians clearly favour public ownership and operation.
In closing, we again urge you to adopt the Department’s recommendation.
CUPE 500 presentation to EPC, October 28, 1999.
“In the Public Interest”: Keeping Water in Public Hands”, CUPE submission to North Battleford City Council, June 17, 2002.
“Privatizing Municipal Water and Wastewater Systems - Promises and Pitfalls”, Janet Werkman and David L. Westerling, Office of the Inspector General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2000.