Photo: Ville de St. Catharines sous license CC BY-SA 4.0
With the mayor of St. Catharines presenting a budget that included the privatization of forestry as an item, forestry workers, members of CUPE 150, are set to attend a council meeting to protect their jobs and services, and to ensure that forestry remains public.

“A sufficient tree canopy provides invaluable ecological services like shade provision, stormwater management, and air purification,” said Pierre Parent, president of CUPE 150. “The City’s proposal to privatize in-house forestry department is an unnecessary threat to the workers who deliver important services and to the residents of St. Catharines who rely on them. St. Catharines’ forestry must remain public and we’re heading to council tomorrow to make sure our representatives do the right thing.”

The City of Catharines’ budget, the union says, depends on overinflated labour costs and underestimated costs for privatizing the work. The city also neglects the importance of public and political accountability, with the union noting that public employees are directly accountable to the municipality. And finally, the quality of the work may suffer as private contractors are primarily motivated by profit and will cut corners where they can, says the union, and typically require a costly retainer fee in order to respond to emergencies. Consequently, the workers they employ will have worst working conditions and are more often inexperienced, impacting the quality of the work and the health of the trees.

“Instead, the city needs to commit to keeping this work in-house,” says Rory Bourgeois, recording secretary of CUPE 150. “If the city truly wants to increase its tree canopy and achieve sustainable, livable, vibrant communities the residents need and deserve, forestry work needs to remain public and protect our jobs. That’s why we’re heading to council tomorrow and we hope the mayor and councillors hear us, as well as the organizations, like ArborSTC, Niagara Urban Stewards, and the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee, who’ve been in solidarity with us.”