Union rallies against possible privatization of waste services in Guelph

City hasn't yet decided on any course of action regarding a $2.5 million deficit this year alone in its recycling department.

The first battle in what union officials believe is a move towards privatising all or part of the city’s waste services took place in front of Guelph City Hall Monday night.

Roughly 45 members of CUPE Local 241 and their supporters gathered prior City Council’s special meeting where staff gave an update on the Solid Waste Resources Business Service Review.

The city has not indicated it will be pursuing the privatization of any of its services, but the interim review says that the city will lose $2.5 million a year in the area of solid materials recycling this year and needs to look at ways of addressing the issue.

Nov. 20 is the important date, when the final review and staff recommendations are made to council.

“You have to spread the word out. This is some serious shit,” said Paul Clulow, president of CUPE Local 241, which represents the city’s inside workers.

“These service reviews are not going away….I think this community would be astonished if (council) voted on Nov. 20 to privatize.”

Timothy Croteau, who has worked at the city’s recycling facility for 19 years, said he believes in what the workers “are doing out there.”

“We need more people to stand behind us and show them that we’re worth it,” Croteau said.

Clulow said in an interview that the main message is to maintain jobs in the public service in Guelph.

“We value this community and the services we provide,” he said, pointing to the city’s relatively high diversion rate of waste from landfill, which is about 61 per cent.

“A lot of people in this community simply don’t know this is happening … there’s a good chance that 47 positions in the recycling facility will be lost.”

Clulow said workers in the recycling facility took a $6 per-hour wage cut in their last collective agreement.

“They’re not getting it for any cheaper in the private sector,” Clulow said.

Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, said that city workers are helping ensure a green, clean, safer future.

“I want strong public services in Guelph. I want full-time, permanent jobs with benefits in Guelph,” added Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.

Those attending the rally and others then made their way into council chambers where Clulow was to appear as a delegate at the special council meeting.