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More than 140 workers from cities and towns in western Canada met in Regina June 10-12 to share strategies for negotiating in the current economic climate, expanding public pensions and protecting public services.

Municipal workers are “the bedrock” of our communities, CUPE National President Paul Moist told delegates to CUPE’s Western municipal conference.

Moist stressed working together in response to the tougher bargaining environment many locals reported facing. “We need to think really strategically, have really united locals, and stick together if one local comes under attack.”

CUPE economist Toby Sanger outlined the economic boost that public sector jobs and services deliver. He also dismantled right-wing attacks on public sector wages – attacks which garner plenty of media coverage but don’t stand up to economists’ scrutiny.

  • Read Toby Sanger’s presentation: “Taxation, the public sector and the CFIB“ 

Moist also called for solutions to the intense financial pressure municipalities face, including a $123 billion infrastructure deficit. That deficit is now compounded by new wastewater standards.

Clean water and environmental protection is “a no-brainer,” said Moist. But municipalities can’t pay for sewage treatment plant upgrades alone.

Canada needs to be rebuilt, and this can’t be funded through property taxes or by jacking up water and sewer rates.”

CUPE pension campaigner Leanne MacMillan outlined labour’s plan to win retirement security for all. It’s a plan that’s getting results, with the federal and Ontario governments taking the positive first step of supporting an increased Canada Pension Plan.

Moist warned about the danger a new Canada-EU trade pact poses to municipalities.

We don’t want a trade agreement that ties the hands of municipal councilors across Canada who want to support local business.”

Conference delegates took time out to walk the picket line with striking workers at Casino Regina. CUPE donated $20,000 to the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union strike funds – a combination of delegate donations on the conference floor and nearly $10,000 in local pledges – which CUPE National matched. The workers have been on strike since June 3.