May 122015

Federal Infrastructure Funding Needed for Municipalities

  1. Talks have broken down between the city’s water workers and Halifax Water. The workers are members of two CUPE locals, Local 227 and Local 1431. In total there are more than 330 workers between the two locals.  The workers deal with water, waste water, and storm water systems across the Halifax Regional Municipality.
  1. The main issues at the bargaining table are around the pension plan and wages. The employer is proposing cuts to both workers’ wages and pension payments for retirees. This is in spite of the fact that Halifax Water received a major increase in water billing.  Workers have voted over 90% in favour of strike action to back their contract demands.
  1. Halifax Water applied for and received a double-digit rate increase over the next two years. Rates are going up by 12% over two years – far above the rate of inflation.
  1. So why is this happening? Why are water rates going up dramatically while the employer is simultaneously trying to reduce workers pensions?  At the end of the day in comes down to Stephen Harper.
  1. The Federal Conservatives have refused to invest federal dollars in infrastructure across the country. This has led to an infrastructure deficit estimated at over $400 billion across the country.
  1. This infrastructure deficit means our schools, parks, water and waste water systems, recreation centres, sewers, roads, ports, garbage and recycling, airports, and more are becoming run down and do not have the resources they need to build a modern economy. Under capitalism, the municipal services we all depend on are underfunded leading to cutbacks and closures.
  1. This is why Halifax Water is dramatically increasing water bills and cutting labour costs. Halifax Water is downloading the cost of the water infrastructure onto the backs of workers.
  1. Federal investment in infrastructure would make it possible to reduce water rates and pay water workers fair wages and pensions. It would mean that Halifax Water would have the resources it needs to repair and renovate existing water and wastewater systems in our city.  This would reduce costs for residents.
  1. Water is a human right. Every human being deserves the right to have access to clean water. And the workers who care for this basic necessity deserve the right to a fair and decent living.
  1. The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for good reason. These rights are enshrined in our charter to ensure that workers have the capacity to collectively fight for better working conditions and for better public services.
  1. This struggle is not isolated. Tax breaks for the wealthy, cuts to the public service, attacks on unions and the erosion of public goods (including water systems) – these are the tactics through which capitalism funnels public resources into private hands. This fight is for more than just 330 workers and this families – this fight is for all of us, and our collective well-being.




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