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More than 100 municipal workers from the four Western provinces are in Edmonton for a three-day meeting that aims to build CUPE locals and strengthen public services.

We live in our communities, and we will fight for them,” said CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts in her opening remarks.

Roberts had a simple message for delegates facing cutbacks, privatization and pension attacks. “As union activists, we have never walked away from what is right. We will continue to speak out and stand up.”

Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan outlined the attacks unions are facing from right-wing governments and business groups, and the need to push back. He highlighted the ongoing use of back-to-work legislation, the low-wage strategy that’s driving changes to Employment Insurance and the temporary foreign worker program, and the impact of the federal Conservatives’ Bill C377.

Bill C377 would force unions to disclose far more financial information than charities or corporations, says McGowan. “It’s designed to defund advocacy work.”

Defending public water resources and services was also high on the agenda. Coalition partners from the Council of Canadians and Public Interest Alberta presented on the dangers of a new Canada-European Union trade deal and water markets – and the connections with the federal government’s push to privatize through PPP Canada.

National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury will address the conference on Friday afternoon.