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Winnipeg city council is considering a plan to privatize the city’s entire garbage collection – a plan that municipal workers and academics say should end up on the trash heap.

In mid-May, the city’s alternative service delivery committee endorsed a proposal to contract out all of the city’s garbage collection (pickup in the city’s lower-income north end is already contracted out to multinational Waste Management Inc.). Pro-privatization mayor Sam Katz and city council will have the final say on July 27.

CUPE 500, representing the city’s municipal workers, says the plan will cost taxpayers more – not less. The union disputes the city’s claim that privatizing garbage pickup will save $2 million a year, saying over time the contractor that gains a monopoly on the service will jack up the prices.

CUPE 500 also points out its own study of the city’s waste collection services, which found savings of $1.5 million per year. Though the union says it will work with the city to reduce costs, no-one has taken up their offer.

The Manitoba office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has also dumped on the privatization plan, calling the contract savings estimate “dubiously low.” The CCPA analysis points to the inevitable, but hidden, costs of contract monitoring.

Both CUPE and the CCPA are clear that any savings squeezed from the service will come at the expense of workers and quality services. For-profit operators push their workers dangerously hard, pay less and offer fewer benefits like health plans and pensions. CUPE says about 100 city workers will be affected if garbage is privatized.

In the coming months, CUPE 500 will be working to keep garbage collection a community service. Visit www.cupe500.mb.ca for the latest updates, and download the CCPA’s full analysis at www.policyalternatives.ca (follow the links to the Manitoba office).