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WARFIELD Three public works employees in the small West Kootenay village of Warfield have launched a public campaign to save their jobs and public services from contracting out.

This week, they sent an open letter to the homes of all village residents asking them to support their public works crew by calling Mayor James Nelson and council and telling them to stop contracting out our public village services.

The employees, who are on call 24 hours a day, have seen their ranks steadily shrink as their work is transferred to private contractors. The employees do everything from cleaning and maintenance of sewer pipes to snow plowing. Many residents know the workers by name.

Mayor and council need to hear from the public that village residents want their services to stay public, said Kathy Hutton, chief negotiator for CUPE Local 2087, the union that represents the Warfield public works crew. The two parties head to mediation in a couple of weeks.

The one-page letter from the public works crew to village residents emphasizes the long-term commitment the workers have to their community and the pride they take in the quality of services they provide. No private contractor based in Victoria or elsewhere can match thatwere not in it for the profit, they write.

All we are asking for, the letter reads is for the village of Warfield to make a commitment to us that the work we do will stop being contracted out to private contractors privatizing our services and eliminating our jobs.

The public works crew is also concerned about the pressure council is placing on the remaining crew to stay silent about health and safety concerns.

They feel garbage pickup was contracted out last month as punishment for a report they sent to the Workers Compensation Board. The WCB found the village violated five legal obligations, including failure to provide training and safety equipment.

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Kathy Hutton, CUPE National Representative, (250) 442-7855;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258.

Open letter