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HAMILTON, ON Concentrating on the original scientific, educational and horticultural mandate of the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is the best way to ensure the long term viability of the gardens, according to a report by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), submitted today to the Review Committee on the Role and Mandate of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

As a result of years of staff cutbacks, the quality of the RBG gardens has deteriorated, said Gus Oliveira, president of CUPE 5167. Instead of staff attending to the gardens, theyve been directed to facilitate wedding receptions. RBG is fast becoming a collection of unkempt and unattended gardens its no wonder they are facing financial difficulties.

The 1941 RBG Act granted RBG its original scientific, educational and horticultural mandate. Faced with financial pressures over the years the board and management focussed on revenue generating programs, such as wedding receptions. Experienced gardening staff were laid off over the years, some of the outside staff were replaced by inside administration tending to special events, and several vacancies were not filled, resulting in the slow neglect and decline of the prize gardens.

Experienced horticulturalists are helping to set up special events instead of tending to the gardens, said Oliveira. Management continues to pursue a short-sighted approach of cutting back staff hours to deal with financial pressures, while the gardens continue to suffer. How will laying off people who maintain the gardens help sustain the gardens in the long run?

CUPE 5167 represents 40 outside workers, many with 20 years of service, who maintain the RBGs gardens, grounds and buildings. In their submission, the front line workers are urging the Review Committee to recommend that RBG return to its original mandate, with adequate staffing to support it, and that senior levels of government commit to providing adequate and sustainable funding to fulfil this mandate.

The RBG workers have also been working closely with Hamilton East MPP Andrea Horwath, to ensure their voices and concerns are heard. Horwath recently filed a freedom of information request to get to the bottom of the committee secrecy and bring hidden documents out in the open. Andrea Horwath fully supports our position and we will work with her to press the Ontario Government to ensure RBG receives adequate and stable funding, said Oliveira.

For further information, please contact:
Gus Oliveira, President, CUPE Local 5167 - 905-517-4105 cell
James Chai, CUPE Communications - 416-292-3999