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The union representing Quebec City blue-collar workers finds that the Labeaume administration’s decision to privatize all horticultural and sanitary maintenance services is surprising and foolish. 

According to the workers, this decision will cost the taxpayers more money, especially considering that the mayor admits he made no comparisons before taking the plunge. Union representatives suspect the mayor of going after the union, by any means necessary, even if the public has to foot the bill.

We are certain that horticultural services in the private sector are going to be more expensive for the City. As for sanitary maintenance, we have negotiated flexibilities in recent years to reduce costs. City managers have told us repeatedly that sanitary maintenance handled internally is very competitive. Is the mayor on the same wavelength as his managers?” asked Marc-André Dufour, president of CUPE 1638.

“Today’s announcement took us completely by surprise. But what doesn’t surprise us is that the mayor has no figures in hand. He can only be acting in the dark, because if he made a careful comparison, he would have to admit that this contracting out will cost the citizens more,” said Dufour.

Union representatives were quick to make a connection between the announcement and the state of ongoing negotiations. Given the impasse in negotiations that began on February 7, 2011, they asked the Ministry of Labour for a conciliator on November 30. The first conciliation session is scheduled for January 13, 2012.

Key issues are: the quantity of work being performed by employees, generally expressed in hours worked; the transition from 6 to 3 callback lists for auxiliary workers; work schedule; and a salary adjustment.

The workers’ collective agreement expired on December 31, 2010. The workers have not exercised their right to strike in over 25 years. Without a labour dispute, the previous round of negotiations ended in late May 2009 with the signing a new contract with Mayor Labeaume’s administration. CUPE 1638 has approximately 1,350 members.