When private goes public – community wins

creynolds Article, Own Your NL, Privatization

Five years ago, the town of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador, was facing problems with its privatized solid waste collection. Complaints were on the rise, and costs were headed in the same direction. In 2011, the town council voted to bring the service in house, ending 30 years of contracting-out.

The CUPE local representing the town’s workers had worked tirelessly over the years to convince management and council that public worked best, first bringing bulk garbage pickup back in house, and building a solid case to end privatization once and for all. Now, at the end of a successful five-year in-house trial period, the service is staying public. The town-run service has also expanded to include curbside recycling pickup.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says CUPE 3034 president Terri-Lynn Cooper. In a recent survey of town residents, garbage collection topped a list of what residents liked about their community, with nearly 82 per cent of people choosing the service first.

Increased service quality is a point of pride for the solid waste workers, members of CUPE 3034. In-house operation is also helping the solid waste crew improve their safety on the job. And town officials are also seeing the benefits of in-house control when it comes to accountability, flexibility and cost savings. The average yearly savings since bringing services in house are “significant,” says the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Dan Noseworthy, clocking in at about $230,000 a year to total $1.15 million over five years.

With 25,000 residents, Conception Bay South is the province’s second-largest – and fastest-growing – community. The town’s in-house crew works the streets four days a week in distinctive white garbage trucks, picking up trash from about 10,000 homes.

Some households use wooden garbage boxes, which can be a health and safety hazard. The boxes aren’t always at the roadside, they attract rodents and wasps, and can have protruding screws. As direct employees of the town, the solid waste crew is better equipped to address the ongoing issue of broken-down boxes and other hazards like bags that are overweight or full of sharp items.

“If we see it’s unsafe, now we have the power not to touch it,” says solid waste crew member Gary Lush, who worked for a contractor before being hired by the town in 2012. “We can take a photo and email it [to town staff] explaining what’s wrong, with the address.”

Under the contractor, workers didn’t have a direct line to town administration. When they didn’t pick up garbage because it was unsafe, town staff and homeowners wouldn’t know why garbage was left behind. Problems would go unsolved, which led to complaints. Now, with clear lines of communication and responsibility, town staff can follow up with property owners about problems, working with the in-house crew. “Every time I put in a complaint, the next week I go back and it’s all cleaned up,” says crew member Shawn Dillon. Being able to tackle unsanitary and unsafe garbage boxes is part of the difference in-house delivery makes.

“Accountability comes with ownership and responsibility. When you have someone specifically responsible for that particular service, they own it,” says Noseworthy. “We’re better prepared and more willing to address occupational health and safety issues like garbage boxes,” he says.

As a contractor, Corey Mitchell didn’t get paid sick time and other benefits he now has as a town employee. “Everything is better – wages are higher with the town, and benefits are better.” The town also supplies safety equipment, like proper boots, that he had to pay for before.

Dillon has been part of the solid waste crew since 2012. He beams when he describes how it feels to be keeping the town clean for his neighbours, family, and community members. “It’s just excellent to be doing this,” he says. The pace of the work lets Dillon and his crewmates work safely and carefully. The in-house routes break the town into four runs, while the contracted-out service had three longer runs – and much more lifting.

For Mitchell, it’s the difference between lifting 13 tons of garbage a day with the contractor, and eight tons with the shorter in-house routes. Crew members also have a regular route, which helps deliver consistent, reliable service. Residents have noticed the difference says Mitchell, who also joined the crew in 2012. “They’ll come up and greet you and thank you. At Christmas, we get cards. People are great with us.”

The tone for the town’s high service standards is set by the white garbage trucks that it bought when the service came in house. Painted white and emblazoned with the town’s logo of a child playing on a tire swing, the crew washes them at the end of every day. The contractor’s trucks were dirty and showed their age with leaks and frequent breakdowns that meant missed pickups, says Cooper.

Former contractor Leo Power worked as part of the original in-house crew. The town’s trucks are “far superior” to the contractor’s vehicles, including a feature that lets the engine work as a brake. “We’ve got a lot of weight [in our trucks]. When you’re going downhill, you’re not picking up speed, you’re actually losing speed,” says Power.

Buying new trucks meant fewer breakdowns and mechanical problems. Town mechanics maintain the fleet, another factor that boosts reliability and reduces costs. A four-day pickup schedule leaves Mondays for maintenance, and there’s room in the town’s service bays for other unexpected work, which means trucks get back on the road faster than with a private garage.

The mechanics, also members of CUPE 3034, are taking care of a million-dollar investment, and it shows in the service they provide, says the town’s Superintendent of Public Works Joe Byrne. “The trucks are serviced to death here. The oil is never black in our trucks, it just doesn’t happen. We won’t lose an engine because the oil wasn’t changed, or anything.”

After five years, the town is planning to start replacing its fleet. “The trucks are still going, but the mileage is up and every part is moving every day”, says Byrne. The town’s fleet renewal plans mean trucks will be retired before problems set in, a move Byrne says will save “a lot of money and a lot of downtime.” The town will keep the truck with the lowest mileage as a backup, ensuring reliable service even when one of the new trucks is off the road for maintenance.

At the end of every collection day, a convoy of four trucks heads for the landfill in nearby St. John’s. Crew members work as a team – waiting until everyone’s finished their route before leaving. If one member’s behind, others who are already done step in to help finish the other route.

“The hardest-working guys in this town work in garbage collection,” says Byrne.

“We’re all out to help everybody ‑ and look after each other,” says Lush. “I’m working with a fine bunch of people.”

Karin Jordan | CUPE Communications

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Five times provincial governments failed with P3 hospitals

creynolds Article, Fact Sheet, issues, Own Your NL, Privatization

A warning for taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador

Time and time again provincial governments are forced to admit they were wrong to use public private partnerships (P3s) to construct health care facilities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars more than they would spend if those hospitals were publicly owned and constructed. Auditor Generals, researchers and journalists across Canada continue to report on P3 failures and unnecessary waste of taxpayers money, yet here we are in Newfoundland and Labrador as the Ball Government is about to embark on another foreseeable failure.

Let’s stop with the misleading jargon and practices and start making transparent, evidence-based decisions. Put our health care dollars into the public health care system, not into construction cost overruns and the pockets of private companies – who may not even be from our province. Keep our hospitals and long term care facilities public.

North Bay Regional Hospital – Ontario

The P3 North Bay Regional Hospital cost at least $160 million more as a P3. The project financing costs are adding millions extra each year, over 50 beds have been closed, and they’re on the third round of layoffs with over 100 jobs cut. The hospital only opened in 2011.

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre – Ontario

The Royal Ottawa Hospital mental health facility opened in November, 2006 – smaller than originally planned, and with fewer beds. The final cost of the P3 hospital was $146 million, a cost overrun of $46 million. Economist Hugh Mackenzie analyzed publicly-available financial details of the ROH. He concluded that private financing added $88 million to the hospital’s costs.

Montréal’s University Health Centres

In 2014, the Quebec newspaper La Presse reported that Auditor General Renaud Lachance released a review of Montréal’s University Health Centres explaining that the capital cost estimates were at least $1.8 billion over the original $5.2 billion announced for the P3 project. That’s actual P3 costs for the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, the research center, the McGill University Health Cente, and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center. That’s not a typo – that’s billions!

William Osler Hospital – Ontario

The William Osler Health Centre in Brampton, Ontario is another example of a P3 gone wrong. In 2008, the Ontario Auditor General found that the building of the P3 facility in cost $194 million more (in 2003 dollars) than it would have as a public hospital. Local fundraising in Brampton had to increase to more than $230 million from an original $100 million in order to try to cover the difference. In the words of Globe and Mail columnist Andre Picard “taxpayers got screwed”.

Diamond Health Care Centre, Vancouver General Hospital – British Columbia

The research found that in the case of the P3 Diamond Health Care Centre – they report that the actual nominal cost of a P3 was more than double that of a publicly procured project. In 2009, forensic accountants found that the Diamond Centre in Vancouver’s General Hospital total nominal cost (whole life cost including maintenance) could have been $89 million if it was built publicly. The BC provincial government spent $203 million – or $114 million more – on the hospital as a P3.

Letter: Red lights flashing — will Liberals heed the warning?

creynolds Article, issues, Opinion, Own Your NL, Privatization

The following letter to the editor by Wayne Lucas was published in The Telegram on February 2, 2017.

In her Jan. 26 article entitled “N.L. Liberals follow PCs to P3s, but details scanty,” reporter Ashley Fitzpatrick shines a light on the Liberal government’s lack of transparency in their plans to use a P3 to design, construct, finance and maintain a long-term care facility in Corner Brook.

I tip my hat to Fitzpatrick for her thorough reporting, given that we’ve been provided with so little information about this project.

We want nothing less than full disclosure and transparency of everything, including all financial details and calculations, reports from the workshops, as well as a calculation of how much the P3 payments will be over the life of the project.

On behalf of CUPE Newfoundland Labrador, I call on the Ball government to respond to NDP Leader Earle McCurdy’s request, asking the basic question of what directions were provided to EY for its evaluation work, and to release the full EY report.

Let’s see a complete value for money analysis, available to the public, before they sign any contracts.

I also call on members of the public to contact their MHA and Al Hawkins, the minister of Transportation and Works, and tell them not to privatize the facility in Corner Brook with secret long-term P3 deals.

It’s not too late.

Let’s heed the lessons of provincial governments in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia that have already learned the hard way that P3s are more expensive than those that are built the traditional way.

P3s are like credit cards. They’re convenient, until you get the bill.

Wayne Lucas
CUPE Newfoundland Labrador President

Ball Government pushing ‘alternative facts’ through phony budget consultations

CUPE Article, issues

“It’s an alternative fact that the Ball Government is interested in listening to the public about what they want in their provincial budget,” says Wayne Lucas, president of CUPE Newfoundland Labrador.

“There seems to be a trend in politics these days to promote your own hidden agenda using alternative facts,” says Lucas. “It’s an alternative fact that the consultations held for the Provincial Library Review, conducted by EY, allowed the public to have a say in the future of our libraries.”

“Will we have a repeat performance of the library consultations? Because that’s what these budget consultations look like – a grand theatrical performance with no real value.”

There are a few indicators that these consultations are a sham. With approximately one-third of the province’s population living on the Avalon Peninsula, there will only be two two-hour sessions, one in St. John’s on February 2 and the other in Harbour Grace on February 9.

Second, the consultation process was announced one week in advance and only publicized through a news release, buried on the government’s website.

Also, four “leading” questions will be asked, presumably framed in a way that participants will not have the opportunity to speak about the issues that really matter to them.

“If Minister Bennett really wanted to ‘work smarter and deliver services more efficiently’ she would make time to hear from the people who depend on those services and the workers who deliver them,” says Lucas.

“It’s a sham consultation process that only select interest groups will be involved in and, maybe, a few hundred people. We want a budget consultation that allows many more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to determine what’s in the provincial budget,” states Lucas.

Master Bargaining Update – January 30, 2017

creynolds Bargaining Update

As most of you are very much aware, our public sector Locals are now actively involved in bargaining with their Employers and Treasury Board officials. In order to establish a backdrop on the timelines of this round of bargaining we can offer the following update.

CUPE was served notice to bargain on February 29 of last year. There was no further communication received until the middle of September, at which time government was seeking immediate bargaining dates.  We met with all of our bargaining committees in order to review and update our opening proposals as well as prepare a Protocol Agreement that the parties could agree on. For those who may not be aware a Protocol Agreement is necessary to establish guidelines for bargaining, including deadlines for submitting new proposals and ground rules for removing and/or renewing articles of the collective agreement. The Protocol Agreement proved to be somewhat problematic but was eventually signed on December 16, 2016.

Bargaining did commence prior to the signing of the Protocol Agreement and the following meetings have occurred:

November 17 and 18           – Local 1860 and NL Housing Corporation

November 21 to 23             – Master School Board and English School District

December 7 and 8               – Local 2329 and NL Provincial Libraries

December 12                       – Local 1560 and English School District

January 4                            – Local 1560 and English School District

January 5                            – Local 2543 and Government House

January 19 and 20               – Local 1860 and NL Housing Corporation

January 30 and 31               – Master School Board and English School District

All our groups have met at least once at the bargaining table to exchange proposals and commence bargaining, with the exception of our Hospital Support Locals and our Group Homes.  With these contracts we have encountered a difference on the interpretation of specific articles in the existing collective agreements which needs to be resolved before continuing.  We have exchanged letters with Treasury Board on this matter outlining our position.  Additional bargaining dates for the other five sectors have been proposed by Treasury Board and CUPE will be responding to those suggested times early this week.

We meet on a regular basis to oversee, coordinate and provide direction for all aspects of the negotiating process, including effective communication between all our sector bargaining committees. We will continue to update our members, to the fullest extent that we are able, throughout the process.  All updates, including this one, will be posted on our CUPE NL website and will be sent to all Local Officers for distribution.  We will continue to strive, at the bargaining table, to reach new collective agreements that will be acceptable to our members.  Despite the excessive number of concessions proposed by Treasury Board, we remain committed to this process and are hopeful that the Employer(s) are likewise committed to the same as we move forward.

We greatly appreciate your solidarity and support. It is essential for our committees to retain their resolve, energy and determination to take on the task before them.

Liberal Government’s financing plan like using a credit card

creynolds issues, News Release, Own Your NL, Privatization

Liberal Government’s financing plan like using a credit card to pay for Corner Brook long term care home.

CUPE Newfoundland Labrador President Wayne Lucas is calling on the Ball Government to reconsider using a public-private partnership (P3) to finance the construction of a long term care home in Corner Brook, announced today.

“We’re glad to hear that the provincial government is responding to the needs of Corner Brook residents. However, we would caution the government to consider the perils of using P3s to finance this facility,” states Wayne Lucas, CUPE NL president. “They are using a finance model that is a proven failure and will cost taxpayers millions more than expected.”

“It’s like using a credit card to pay for it,” says Lucas. “Let’s start this project the right way. Let’s keep the long term care home publicly financed, owned and operated.”

“I just heard Premier Ball use the word ‘leased’ and that would send a shudder down the backs of taxpayers in Nova Scotia! They just found out what a poor decision their Liberal government made building P3 schools using a so-called public-private partnership. Now they’re buying back leases for schools that they should have owned outright from the beginning,” says Lucas.

“Time and time again provincial governments are forced to admit they were wrong to use public private partnerships to construct health care facilities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars more than they would spend if those hospitals were publicly owned and constructed.”

“Auditors, researchers and journalists across Canada continue to report on P3 failures and the unnecessary waste of taxpayers money, yet here we are in Newfoundland and Labrador about to embark on another foreseeable failure,” says Lucas. “Put our health care dollars into the public health care system, not into construction cost overruns and the pockets of private companies – who may not even be from our province.”

Back In House: Why Local Governments Are Bringing Services Home

creynolds issues, Own Your NL, Privatization, Report

Back In House: Why Local Governments Are Bringing Services Home, a new report from the Columbia Institute, is about the emerging trend of remunicipalization. Municipal services that were once outsourced are finding their way back home. Most often, they are coming home because in-house services cost less. The bottom-line premise of cost savings through outsourcing is not proving to be as advertised.

Other reasons for insourcing include better quality control, flexibility, efficiency in operations, problems with contractors, increased staff capacity, better staff morale, and better support for vulnerable citizens. When services are brought back in house, local governments re-establish community control of public service delivery.

The report examines the Canadian environment for local governments, shares 15 Canadian case studies about returning services, follows-up and reports back on two earlier studies promoting contracted out services, provides a scan of international findings, and shares some best practices and governance checkpoints for bringing services back in house. Many of the local governments examined employ CUPE members.

As part of our ongoing work to promote the value of publicly-delivered services, CUPE helped fund the production of the Columbia Institute report Back in House.

Order free copies of the report

This report examines shares 15 Canadian case studies, best practices and governance checkpoints for bringing services back in house.

Lessons from the Charbonneau Commission

creynolds issues, Own Your NL, Privatization, Report

Privatizing public services can have dangerous consequences

Most people will remember the explosive allegations exposed by Quebec’s public inquiry into corruption and collusion within Quebec’s construction industry. The Charbonneau Commission found that for years, supposedly reputable companies were awarded public road, wastewater, and other building contracts at highly inflated prices. These companies would then kick back a portion of the profits to the mafia, as well as to government officials and political parties that helped secure the contracts.

But what allowed these private companies to establish the intricate corruption schemes and highly inflated prices in the first place? Let’s take a look at some of the causes.

Austerity and outsourcing

Many of the witnesses agreed: years of austerity and cuts within the Transport Ministry created a situation where there was not sufficient internal expertise to properly monitor and inspect public tendering processes, especially in identifying a project’s needs in the design phase. The ministry was also unable to properly assess cost overruns and other invoices during the building phase.

Similarly, outsourced municipal work created conditions, which were ripe for corrupt companies to abuse the system. In Montreal alone, outside municipal workers from CUPE 301 were reduced from 12,000 in the 1970s to about 5,000 in the 2000s. Consequently, in some privatized areas like sidewalks, wastewater and paving, the lack of competition allowed mafia-linked companies to form cartels which then rigged the bidding processes and inflated prices by up to 30 per cent.

Public-private partnerships (P3s): a risky lack of transparency

The Commission focused much attention on the corruption scheme at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) P3 that implicated then-CEO Arthur Porter and SNC Lavalin. The report shows how the veil of secrecy surrounding P3s opened the door to corruption. MUHC managers were able to choose the members of the selection committees that oversaw the bidding, and both the managers and committee members were offered bribes to favor one bidder.

All of this could have been avoided if the province had decided to go the traditional route by financing the project publicly.

And if that wasn’t enough, Quebec think-tank IRIS released a paper in 2014 demonstrating that the province could save nearly $2 billion dollars by buying back the contract and bringing the hospital back into public hands.

What can we do about these problems with the system? The commission’s 1700-page final report, tabled in November of 2015, sets out 60 recommendations to help fight corruption and collusion, including hiring more internal expertise at both the provincial and municipal levels, more oversight and transparency in the public tendering process, and strengthening protections for whistleblowers.

“An often-suggested approach (…) to preventing collusion between stakeholders in the private sector and improving the estimation of construction costs is to strengthen the internal expertise of public sector offerors, particularly by allowing them to perform certain tasks themselves, using internal staff.” *

“Internal expertise is an effective defense against collusion.” *

*Source: Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry (Volume 3, pp. 134, 135)

Equality Statement

creynolds About Us

Union solidarity is based on the principle that union members are equal and deserve mutual respect at all levels. Any behaviour that creates conflict prevents us from working together to strengthen our union.

As unionists, mutual respect, cooperation and understanding are our goals. We should neither condone nor tolerate behaviour that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any individual or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

Discriminatory speech or conduct which is racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic hurts and thereby divides us. So too, does discrimination on the basis of ability, age, class, religion, language and ethnic origin.

Sometimes discrimination takes the form of harassment. Harassment means using real or perceived power to abuse, devalue or humiliate. Harassment should not be treated as a joke. The uneasiness and resentment that it creates are not feelings that help us grow as a union.

Discrimination and harassment focus on characteristics that make us different; and they reduce our capacity to work together on shared concerns such as decent wages, safe working conditions, and justice in the workplace, society and in our union.

CUPE’s policies and practices must reflect our commitment to equality. Members, staff and elected officers must be mindful that all persons deserve dignity, equality and respect.

Two-tier bargaining – how to recognize it and reject it

creynolds Collective Bargaining, Fact Sheet, issues

We are committed to ensuring that the next generation of workers enjoys the benefits that CUPE members have already won. We cannot build solidarity between generations if we accept two-tier contracts. Our union opposes all moves toward two-tier wages, benefits or pensions. 
– Strategic Directions 2013-2015

Two-tiered collective bargaining (or “orphan clause” bargaining as it is known in Quebec) is a divisive practice through which employers try to get union members to agree to different scales of compensation. Collective agreements which include two tiers may mean that new hires receive lower wages, less job security, longer probationary periods, different pensions and benefits, or a combination of all four of these measures. These differences may be temporary or permanent, but either way two-tier bargaining is concession bargaining. Eventually all workers in the bargaining unit lose.

With two-tier provisions, some new hires may eventually achieve the same pay rates as more senior employees but it takes years to achieve parity. Sometimes the effects are permanent. In these cases, newer – and most often, younger workers, women workers, racialized workers and workers with disabilities – will never achieve the same collective agreement benefits.

Two-tiered clauses provide new hires with worse working conditions, wages and benefits than those negotiated for more senior colleagues in the same jobs, for no reason other than their date of hire. Two-tier bargaining is unfair to new hires and weakens  the union because it undermines union solidarity. Unions are built on the principle of fairness and there is nothing fair about people doing the same job for different wages. Eventually today’s new hires will be in the majority and they will have no interest in fighting for higher wages or protecting the benefits of those who agreed to give them second tier status.

Once a union accepts two-tier provisions, subsequent rounds of bargaining are often spent trying to remove those tiers or finding ways to compensate lower-tier workers, making overall gains even harder to achieve. Once successful in establishing a second tier, the employer will try to shift work to workers who cost less, away from workers who enjoy full pay and benefits.

Common two-tier offers

Pensions: Employers often try to replace defined benefit (DB) pensions with defined contribution (DC) plans for new hires. This split compromises the retirement security of both current and future members. DB plans that are closed to new members cost more as plan members get older and then employers typically come back looking for either increased contributions or reduced benefits (or both) from the members in the DB plan.

Job security: Weaker job security language for new hires is another two-tier tactic. Employers argue that it will not affect anyone who is already part of the union. But such proposals are designed to chip away at the size of the bargaining unit. Once the union is smaller, it is weaker and everyone’s job security is at greater risk. To protect all workers’ job security we need the energy and activism that new and young workers bring.

Job losses: Employers will claim that without two-tiers some workers may lose their jobs. But accepting two tier deals does not protect jobs. Consider the case of the United Auto Workers. They had 700,000 members at the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) in the US during the 1970s. In difficult bargaining in the 1980s and 1990s, the UAW accepted two-tier concessions in exchange for promises of job security. Today, they have only 110,000 members left at these companies. As Sam Gindin has argued in The Toronto Star, an autoworker hired at a Big Three company today will be working at a lower inflation-adjusted wage than he or she would have earned a half-century ago.

As governments try to implement austerity measures, pushing two-tier provisions is increasingly on the table in the Canadian public sector. Employers often say it is a question of resources, but it is not the case that governments cannot afford to offer the same wages and benefits that existing workers have. Since the 1990s, Canada has steadily lowered overall tax rates, but governments can make a different choice. By raising revenue through job creation, raising corporate taxes, closing loopholes and a variety of other measures, governments can offer good wages and benefits to workers.

When unions have agreed to two-tier clauses it has led to animosity between union leaders and members, and between members themselves. Two-tier contracts do not protect senior workers for long as employers seek further concessions and exploit the weakened union.

We must all fight for our jobs before we bargain by engaging the public in conversations about the importance of our work and building public support for our members. Another solution is to encourage worker-friendly governments to bring in legislation that prevents two-tier agreements. But the best solution is to make sure that all current union members – the people who decide whether to accept or reject a tiered collective agreement – understand the true cost of such agreements, both for new hires and for themselves.

GUIDELINES FOR BARGAINING

  • Work with CUPE staff to identify other ways of dealing with the cost issues. For instance, in certain circumstances locals might consider accepting slightly lower wage increases across the board rather than agree to different rates for new hires.
  • Educate members about the solidarity costs of tiers – members who vote to accept tier agreements cannot expect new workers to support the union in the same way in future rounds of bargaining, where things they value may be on the table.
  • Lobby and engage public sector employers and elected representatives about fairness, especially as it applies to public services and public service workers. It is because of good collective agreements that women working in the public sector now have a smaller gender wage gap.

Download a printable copy of this fact sheet.