TORONTO The President of CUPE Local 416, the Toronto Civic Employees Union, warns Torontonians that plans to parcel off our sewer and water treatment systems as a separate utility will open the door to privatization, contracting out and the loss of public control of our water quality. Local 416 represents 7,000 Toronto municipal workers, 2,200 library workers and 2,000 sewage and water treatment personnel.
Privatization means the private sector has to make a profit somewhere, either by lowering standards or lowering wages and cutting corners, says Toronto Civic Employees Union, CUPE Local 416 President Brian Cochrane. Once the public loses control of our water system and it becomes a separate utility, well never be able to get it back. While the City may argue that this plan keeps the utility public, they cannot contend they will not lose substantial control of this utility, as it will be in the hands of a few select councilors instead of all the city councilors.
Cochrane was commenting on recent reports that some Toronto City councilors have been meeting behind closed doors to plan a separate utility for the citys sewage and water treatment systems. Currently Torontos water and sewer systems are departments of the City of Toronto, accountable to elected councilors and to the people of Toronto.
Meetings behind closed doors by a handful of privateering councilors to plan such wholesale changes is disrespectful of Toronto voters and jeopardizes the future of services we all rely on, says Cochrane. I am appalled the union was never consulted about this proposal, especially as it affects the way we deliver vital services and the future of so many workers, adds Cochrane. We are outraged the city talks publicly about its workers as being an integral part of the system while they continually ignore us. The City expects loyalty from its staff but shows no concern for them.
Local 416 has made several suggestions over the years to improve efficiency and productivity, but lately it seems the City wasnt listening, charges Cochrane. Their own Best Works Practices program has already invested over 150 million dollars to implement improvements with the intent to keep this service public. Handing the whole system over to an independent operator makes no sense and could have a huge and unpredictable impact on tax payers.
If the City creates an independent water utility, current employees with years of experience in the treatment of water and waste water will face an uncertain future and a wealth of expertise may be lost, concludes Cochrane. We will fight to make sure our public water and sewer systems remain public and accountable to the people Torontonians deserve nothing less.
For further information, please contact:
Brian Cochrane, President, CUPE Local 416
Bill Guthrie, Vice-President, CUPE Local 416
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications