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The prospect of private operation of three British Columbia trade and sports centres has CUPE worried.

Under the proposal, announced in June, Toronto-based Giffels Partnership Solutions will design and build the $39.6-million South Okanagan Event Centre, while Global Spectrum Inc. of Philadelphia will operate the facility, as well as the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and Memorial Arena.

Four full-time Penticton city workers, members of CUPE 608, will be affected by the change, in addition to six to eight on-call staffers at the convention centre.

CUPE 608 president Carolae Donoghue said although CUPE hopes to sign a successorship agreement with Global Spectrum to maintain the affected city workers’ existing wages, they would no longer be represented by the union. Once their existing contract expires, the company might not be legally bound to honour it.

Frank Russo, a senior vice-president with Global Spectrum, has said his company would honour the existing CUPE contract. However, he admitted in interviews that some workers might not want to work for a performance-based, private-sector operation.

Donoghue also expressed dismay over the negotiation process between the city and the two private-sector firms, which was closed to public scrutiny.

I am hearing a good deal of surprise at both the estimated cost of the proposed new event centre and the fact that it represents a wholesale privatization of the operations,” she said. However, Donoghue added that she was satisfied with the city’s efforts to make sure the affected staffers are well looked after.

City administrators have said the contracts with Giffels and Global won’t be signed until the municipal electorate gets a chance to vote on financing the project as well as the basic principles involved in the contracts.

City council is expected to decide soon whether to hold a formal referendum or opt for the alternate approval process for the event centre project, whereby at least 10 per cent of the electorate must register their opposition at city hall to force a referendum.

Meanwhile, CUPE’s regional office has released the results of a recent Ipsos Reid poll, which indicated that 83 per cent of residents in the B.C. interior want to see their local government, rather than private companies, provide parks and recreation services.