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Public services are a right!

Canadians depend on the quality of life that comes from public services. Across Canada, CUPE members deliver and use the services that keep our communities safe and healthy. We work in hospitals, schools and universities; on the ground with communitybased services and in the skies as flight attendants. We provide safe water, clean streets, reliable emergency services. We are the glue that holds communities together. We help make the world a better place.

But negotiations underway at the World Trade Organization (WTO) seriously threaten our communities – and quality of life.

Governments and corporations see Canada’s public services as a missed business opportunity. To cash in, they are using the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to lock in corporate profits over community rights.

In fact, the Canadian government is leading the way to define every possible public service as a moneymaking opportunity that’s governed by trade rules, not public need.

The vast majority of Canadians want to keep public services off the table in the GATS or any other trade deal. But the Canadian government is using the GATS to divert public spending to private gain, and to push privatization of vital public services.

If governments and corporate lobbyists at the unelected WTO get their way, health care, education, social services, municipal services, utilities and many other public services will be run as for-profit businesses. Access to services as well as accountability and quality will decline. Good jobs will disappear and the environment will suffer.

Our Jobs, Our Communities, Our Future The WTO wants to:

  • Set new rules for trade and investment in all services – education, health, social services, libraries, recreation and culture, architecture and engineering, sewer and water, construction, retail and many other sectors that fall partly or wholly under local government control.
  • Guarantee foreign corporations the right to turn our hospitals, schools, social service agencies and water services into commercial ventures.
  • Deny governments the right to favour local or not-for-profit service providers over foreign suppliers.
  • Severely limit the ability of governments to maintain or create standards to protect the environment, public health, consumers and other public interests.
  • Control measures taken by governments and their agencies at all levels – national, provincial and local. Even a municipal zoning decision could be subject to trade sanctions, if it’s seen to be interfering with a company’s profits.
  • Lock in future governments and limit their ability to regulate, change or end this market-driven, anti-union trade regime.

No to the WTO

The GATS negotiations will open up public services to an all-out corporate takeover. This new, wideranging trade deal has far-reaching rules that will:

  • Introduce private, for-profit hospitals run on a pay-per-use basis and staffed cheaply by less qualified, contracted-out or “imported” non-unionized workers.
  • Force Canadian public schools to compete with for-profit educational institutions for scarce resources.
  • Divert public tax dollars into foreign-owned for-profit corporations instead of publicly owned and operated services.
  • Prevent governments at all levels from favouring Canadian, local, or not-for-profit municipal services and utilities over foreign for-profit corporations.

Build Better Communities: Stick up for Public Services

Get informed

  • Copy and distribute CUPE’s WTO fact sheets (available on our web site, cupe.ca).
  • Look at your workplace and community. Identify which jobs and services are affected. Talk with your union and local politicians.
  • Attend one of the public events in your community that is opposed to the WTO, FTAA or GATS.
  • Follow the news, including the alternative press; ask for information at the public library.

Get involved

  • Help mobilize public opposition.
  • Talk to co-workers, neighbours and friends about the WTO’s threat to public services.
  • Write a letter to your local paper and give a copy to your union’s newsletter.
  • Declare your workplace and community a GATS-free zone.
  • Sign or start a petition or contact your elected local, provincial and federal representative asking them to adopt a resolution opposing new trade deals at the WTO. A sample resolution is available on the web site.

For the name and phone number of your MP, call 1-800-267-7360. Or fax your MP at no cost through CUPE’s web site. Visit cupe.ca and register your views today.