Canadian Union of Public Employees

With 618,000 members across Canada, CUPE represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines.

Jun 242013

Flight attendant ratio at issue.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE Airline Division President Michel Cournoyer and NDP Transport, Infrastructure and Communities critic Olivia Chow are urging the Conservative government to stop compromising airline passenger safety with the recent decision to reduce the number of flight attendants on board all Canadian airplanes.

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Jun 242013
Seniors  care.

Employees invited back for less pay.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

Staff providing home care services at Strathmore Lodge have been given termination notices after Alberta Health Services gave the contract to Bayshore Home Health, a for-profit health care provider.

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Jun 172013
CUPE President Paul Moist.

Attacking municipal workers won’t fix potholes.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

[Paul Moist, CUPE national president, responds to a report released in May by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) claiming that municipal government spending increased by 55 percent between 2000 and 2001.  The op-ed was published in The Vancouver Sun recently.]

Canada’s cities and towns are facing a daunting challenge. The bridges, roads, water and waste water systems, and community centres we all depend on every day are in dire need of repair and replacement. Our over $120-billion infrastructure deficit is a national crisis that needs all levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — to work together to address.

But some are intent on sabotaging efforts to find a fix, as evident from the latest report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

Released in May, the CFIB report Big City Spenders tries to argue spending by municipal governments is wildly out of control due to the wages, benefits and pensions of municipal workers. And it’s these excessive salaries that are causing infrastructure to fall into disrepair.

However, the CFIB report is riddled with questionable methodology that tries to pass off misinformation as research. This is not a matter of opinion or a contrary interpretation of nuanced data. Simply put, every single claim the report puts forward is just plain wrong.

The report’s key piece of evidence is that municipal government spending increased by 55 percent — adjusted for inflation — between 2000 and 2011, outpacing population growth of only 12 percent during the same period.

While this point makes for great headlines, as the foundation for a report it is practically useless.

A much more suitable measure is looking at government spending as a share of the economy — the GDP. Using this measure you’ll see municipal government spending as a share of the economy is still close to the lowest it’s been in the last 30 years.

The CFIB used 2000 as a convenient start for its comparison as it marks a relatively low point in municipal government spending.

The most obvious flaw in the CFIB report is the comparison of spending to wages. Regardless of what measure is used to report spending, wages have not been the driver of municipal spending increases. In fact, while municipal spending as a percentage of GDP has remained stable, compensation in the municipal sector has declined by 23 percent.

Actual average wages paid by local governments have increased at a lower rate than overall average wages in Canada, and barely above the rate of inflation.

Average weekly wages paid by local, municipal and regional governments rose from $622.67 in 1991 to $952.86 in 2012, a compound annual increase of two percent, barely above the period’s average inflation rate (1.9 percent). This works out to an average of $49,549 in 2012 for salaried workers. Average pay for hourly local government workers was considerably lower: an average of about $40,000 in 2012.

For a country struggling with high unemployment, especially among young people, and many Canadian workers facing increasingly precarious work situations, these are good paying jobs. But they are hardly the lavish and excessive salaries the CFIB tries to portray.

For good measure, this latest CFIB report retreads its previous claims public sector wages are wildly higher than those in the private sector — a claim conclusively disproven by Canadian Union of Public Employees economist Toby Sanger in his 2011 Battle of the Wages study. While the average wages of public sector workers are slightly higher than private sector counterparts doing similar work (0.5 percent), the gap is almost entirely due to superior pay equity for women in the public sector.

“However, the CFIB report is riddled with questionable methodology that tries to pass of misinformation as research.  This is not a matter of opinion or a contrary interpretation of nuanced data.  Simply put, every single claim the report puts forward is just plain wrong.”

Clearly, municipal workers are not the problem.

After decades of cuts to federal and provincial programs, municipal governments are being forced into picking up the costs of vital public services — such as social housing and child care. On top of that, municipal governments are under increasing pressure from the Harper Conservative government to privatize public services through risky public-private partnerships in order to get federal infrastructure funding.

These are the real issues facing municipal governments. Clouding and confusing them with cynical misinformation helps no one, and is a disservice to the small businesses and local economies that depend on public services and infrastructure.


Jun 132013

$20 billion needed for wastewater upgrading.

from the Canadian Union of  Public Employees

A resolution passed recently at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' annual conference in Vancouver calls on the federal government to help cover the costs of meeting new wastewater regulations, without the requirement to participate in public-private partnerships (P3s).

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Jun 102013

Edmonton self-help group directed to turn operations over to for-profit contractor.

from CUPE

EDMONTON – A co-operative housing project for the disabled in Old Strathcona has been told by Alberta Health Services (AHS) it must lay off its staff and turn operations over to a private, for profit, company. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is calling on AHS to release details of the contract with the private contractor. 

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May 092013

National continuing care program needed.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

Canadians need a national continuing care program, with dedicated transfers tied to Canada Health Act standards, minimum staffing levels, and more public and non-profit delivery, says CUPE.

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May 022013
CUPE President Paul Moist.

Harper's record under review.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE was at the United Nations in Geneva last week drawing international attention to the Harper Conservatives' efforts to privatize Canada's municipal water and wastewater systems and to the need for accessible, safe public water.

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Apr 262013

Wait lists, poverty spark protest.

from the Canadian Union of Public Employees

“Last year’s budget left tens of thousands on wait lists for long-term care beds, for child care, for affordable housing, for developmental services, for home care, and more than a million Ontarians living in poverty because of stagnant social assistance and mimimum wage rates,” he said.

Community groups and CUPE members symbolically queued up April 22 in front of Queen's Park. The queue mirrored the frustration of more than two million Ontarians who are waiting for government action on public services and poverty reduction, said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

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