City of Quebec outside workers will not be standing idly by after the city announced the privatization of garbage collection services. Their union is kicking off a media campaign with a thirty-second advertisement on a number of Quebec City radio stations. The ad denounces the decision of mayor Régis Labeaume’s administration to fully privatize garbage collection services starting April 1.
Prior to amalgamation, garbage collection serviceswere provided by unionized blue collar workers. Now, the Labeaume administration is transferring garbage collection out of the hands of public sector workers, contracting it out to Gaudreau Environment. Fifty city workers stand to lose their jobs. Ultimately, the public will pay the price of this decision.
Jean Lachance, president of the outside workers’ union (CUPE 1638) explains: “With this media campaign, we want to inform people of the consequences of this decision. Once the city is stripped of its machinery and employees, it will no longer be able to tell private contractors that if they’re too expensive, it’ll take over. How great for the contractors to know that the city has no more garbage collecting equipment or workers! You can bet that prices will go up. And Quebec City residents will be the ones who pay the price of this ridiculous decision.”
Staff representative Denis Plante believes privatization is actually not possible under the collective agreement with the city. “The collective agreement is very clear. The city cannot privatize the garbage collection services we currently provide within the former city limits.” He notes that “February 8 is an important date. On that day we will go before an arbitrator so he can render a decision by April 1, the day the announced privatization would start.”
Sometimes one issue hides a larger agenda, as well. The current wrestling match between blue collar workers and the city could have serious repercussions – and provide an opening to bring in broader privatization of municipal services.
And all of this, of course, is happening at a time when questionable contracts with private businesses have been receiving a lot of attention in the news in Quebec. The fight to protect garbage services in Quebec City is only just beginning.