The publication of a white paper on municipal reorganization, released by metropolitan affairs minister Louise Harel at the end of April, has plunged CUPE-Qub0065c into a complex process that will have a major impact on our members working conditions.
Successive governments in Qub0065c have tried with little success to reorganize the large urban centres (Montreal, Quebec City and the Outaouais), merging municipalities. In comparison with Ontario that has 586 municipalities for 11 million people, Quebec has more than 1,300 for 7.3 million people. Most observers of the municipal scene, including CUPE, agree on the need to improve the efficiency of these urban centres.
In its white paper, the province announced its intention, through fair means or foul, to create metropolitan communities in Montreal, Quebec City and the Outaouais. The new communities will be responsible for planning, coordination and financing of urban planning, mass transit, economic development, social housing, assessment, environment and public safety. The minister has said she wants these metropolitan communities up and running by January 2001.
Delegates to the Municipal Sector Provincial Council (CPSM) met in mid-May to review the white paper in detail and set out a plan of action.
The big concern for CUPE members relates to proposed changes to the rules governing labour relations. In the event unions and the future municipalities cannot agree, the minister is recommending an arbitrator determine the collective agreements.
This is completely unacceptable, says Gilles Charland, Director of CUPE-Qub0065c. We dont need this. We foresee no major problems in harmonizing the collective agreements, since they are all quite similar in the large urban centres.
CUPE members are also concerned about the repeated demands by the municipal associations to amend section 45 of the Qub0065c Labour Code governing successor rights. The employers are looking for changes that would make it easier to contract out services.
CUPE represents more than 32,000 Qub0065c municipal workers in 275 locals, including outside and inside workers, bus drivers and fire fighters.