ST. CATHARINES Contracting out facility maintenance of the Citys new Sportsplex will lead to a loss of accountability and open the door to more privatization, warns the union representing over 260 City of St. Catharines outside workers.
Facility maintenance is essential to the long-term upkeep of the new Sportsplex, says Sean Soper, spokesperson for Local 150 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The taxpayers are investing over 18 million dollars to build the new 4-pad arena but city management is willing to risk this investment by contracting important facility maintenance to a profit seeking company.
The City of St. Catharines recently issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the maintenance of the new Sportsplex, scheduled to open in the spring of 2005. The facility maintenance contract is to include ice maintenance and resurfacing for all ice pads and custodial maintenance of the Sportsplex. Other services such as rental of ice/floor time, marketing/promotion of the new facility, supervision and maintenance of the surrounding green space and skatepark will be provided by City staff, including Local 150 members.
Why is city management seeking to contract out the maintenance services, asks Frank Hilton, CUPE National Representative. This whole RFP process is very puzzling. Why would management seek to contract out maintenance services when our members are receiving compliments on how well the facilities are maintained, compared to the privately run facility?
Local 150 members currently maintain ice rinks in four of the five City-owned arenas. Merriton Arena is the only City-owned arena not operated by public sector workers. Experience from other municipalities has shown that privatization of public services has often led to poorer service, at times costing the taxpayers even more money. Local 150 members have heard complaints about poor maintenance in privately-run facilities which often results in shallow spots and ruts on the ice surface.
We are hard working, dedicated public service employees, says Soper. We are perfectly qualified and willing to provide facilities maintenance to the new arena. We are all very concerned that once the new arena is opened, some of the older arenas will be closed off, which will result not only in lay-offs for our members, but less ice time availability to the residents of St. Catharines.
It is not clear why management would not leverage the knowledge and experience of existing city maintenance staff, says Hilton. Management is either using this RFP process as a bargaining tactic, or trying to open the door to other forms of privatization. That doesnt bode well for our members or the taxpayers of this city. CUPEs collective agreement expires at the end of this year.
CUPE Local 150 members will start a public awareness campaign targeting community groups and residents, lobby local politicians and build public support to make sure this contracting out proposal is stopped. We feel that this is an important issue for the residents to act on, says Hilton. If one part of the operation is contracted out, the question then becomes what will be next.
Some of our members have worked for the City for over 20 years, says Soper. We have served and seen the kids grow up some of them are now bringing their own children for hockey and figure skating lessons. We have been part of the St. Catharines community for many years and with public support, we can continue to serve the city for many more years.
For further information, please contact:
Sean Soper, Spokesperson Local 150
(905) 688-5601 ext. 2161
(905) 680-1306 home
James Chai, CUPE Communications