Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Civic union launches advertising assault

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The City of Winnipeg's largest union has launched a TV attack ad that lambastes Mayor Sam Katz over the privatization of city services and characterizes a proposed land swap as a council attempt to "sell fire halls to their friends."

On Oct. 31, Winnipeg television stations began airing a Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 ad that claims the privatization of services such as garbage collection results in higher costs, service cuts and "no accountability."

The 30-second spot, titled For Sale, features animation that shows the letters of Winnipeg getting chopped up, sucked into a vacuum and sent down a drain. The ad alleges Katz and city council are selling off infrastructure, "want to privatize parks, golf courses and arenas and have sold garbage collection to private companies headquartered in Ontario and the U.S."

The ad erroneously maintains "the city handed management of our water to a company in France." The latter claim appears to be a reference to the city's sewage-treatment consulting contract with Veolia Canada.

The ad also describes a proposed swap of land below a new fire-paramedic station for three pieces of city property as a council attempt to "sell fire halls to their friends."

CUPE 500's website says the ad will continue to air through November. A CUPE 500 spokesman said late Monday the ad is intended to link public concerns about accountability at city hall to concerns about privatization.

A spokeswoman for Katz said the mayor's office would not respond to the ad "at this time."

The City of Winnipeg is currently in the midst of hiring an external firm to review its two largest departments -- public works and the police service -- in an effort to find cost savings. The Winnipeg Police Service is the largest department, while public works, which ranks second, is made up mostly of CUPE members.

The union may also be upset about an abandoned plan to sell or lease seven financially troubled city-owned golf courses after an audit found they racked up large debts. A subsequent report recommended the city use a process called "managed competition" to see if unions can provide services for less money than cost estimates submitted by the private sector.

This year, the city's operating budget pledged to save $15 million by delaying filling vacancies and finding better ways to deliver services.

 

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2012 B1

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