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Great Lakes Article:

Union heads urge workers to fight privatization

Posted 09/23/2002
Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) — Canadian union leaders urged the workers of the world Monday to save public services from the ravages of globalization by actively lobbying their governments and politicians.

Speaking to over 1,000 delegates at an international congress of labour unions, Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti called on workers to speak out against the increasing privatization of public services such as energy, water and health care.

"(We're) calling on all workers to become political again. It's time for a change," Georgetti said in a speech opening the conference.

Georgetti said he was "shocked" to hear Prime Minister Jean Chrétien say at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg that privatization was key to vitalizing public water systems in the developing world.

"Shame on him," Georgetti said, given Canada's poor track record for drinking water safety.

He cited the tainted water scandal in Walkerton, Ont., where in May 2000, seven people died and 2,300 fell ill in the southwestern Ontario community when deadly bacteria E. coli made its way into the town's water supply. "It's time for a reality check for those elites and those politicians who have gotten away with far too much for far too long," Georgetti said. "Working people want more. Working people expect more."

The CLC, which represents 2.5 million Canadian workers, also released its annual report card on work to mark Labour Day. The study indicated that despite working harder, the quality of life for Canadian workers is eroding.

They are more worried about losing their jobs, working longer hours and have less job security, the study said. There was also a 34 per cent increase from 2001 of workers who said their income fell short of what they required to meet basic needs.

Georgetti's harsh criticism of privatization was echoed by William Lucy, president of the Public Services International, an international public sector union federation representing more than 20 million workers worldwide.

"We have . . . a moral obligation to fight privatization in all of its forms," said Lucy.

"We cannot — and will not — sit idly by as the essential services that provide the foundation for a better life are shifted to the private sector for profit rather than progress."

He said the public sector is increasingly threatened by multinational corporations, who want to exploit resources and basic services for profit.

"We must remain vigilant, scrutinizing every effort that would deliver water, energy, transport, communication, travel and tourism, and any other public services to the highest bidder," he added.

Both the prime minister and federal Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw were invited to the conference but neither could attend, organizers said.

The five-day conference takes place once every five years. It is hosted in Canada by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Service Employees International Union Canada, National Union of Public and General Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
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