RICHMOND—CUPE members from all over the province arrived in Richmond Wednesday evening for the opening night of CUPE BC’s anti-privatization conference. The theme of the conference “positively public-our communities are not for sale” was clearly noted by all attendees and speakers.
Cindy McQueen, conference chair, opened the conference and Larry Grant, Musqueam elder, gave greetings to delegates. CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill and CUPE National president Paul Moist both spoke to conference delegates as well.
O’Neill told delegates that that public sector has been facing privatization threats for the past 25 years but that CUPE had constantly been at the forefront of this issue and will continue to lead the fight to keep services public going forward.
“We tell our children they have the key to the future,” said O’Neill, “but if local governments continue to enter into these long term-agreements with the private sector our children and grandchildren won’t have any ability to change any of the infrastructure where they live.”
Moist congratulated BC locals who faced tough rounds of bargaining but managed to fight hard to achieve fair and reasonable collective agreements and pledged support for locals still in negotiations. He also commended BC members for their work around fighting P3s and contracting-out. He closed by telling locals to “fight smart, think strategically, and to remember we can win.”
Keynote speaker Shelley Carroll, a Toronto city councillor, spoke of Toronto’s battle against Mayor Rob Ford’s desire to privatize “everything that moves”.
She gave delegates tools to go back to into their communities and speak about the damaging effect privatization has on communities.
“It’s about breaking numbers down in a real way, for real people,” said Carroll. “Every business must make a profit and to keep that profit margin rolling they have to reduce the quality of that service every year.”
The conference continues through Friday with a panel discussion Thursday morning followed by a “Ten Percent Shift” presentation by O’Neill and workshops Thursday afternoon continuing into Friday.