May 06, 2023
Alberta gov't must reverse UCP cuts to wildfire fighting operations
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“Smith must do more than just respond to the current wildfire emergency." — AUPE Vice-President Sandra Azocar.
You can contact the AUPE Anti-Privatization Committee by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 06, 2023
AUPE members are at risk of losing their jobs because of privatization. When our jobs are privatized, we get fired. Members are preparing to stop privatization and work together to protect Alberta's public services.
Here are some steps you can take to help and prepare in case you face privatization.
Ensure AUPE has your up-to-date contact information and receive the latest union news, personalized for you.
Members can pick up Support Public Services lawn signs from AUPE's regional offices across the province, including Edmonton Headquarters.
AUPE's Anti-Privatization Manual has everything you need to spot the signs of privatization and organize to help you and your coworkers save your jobs. Download and read the manual if you think your worksite at risk.
Click here to fill out our anti-privatization reporting form to report any rumours, notices, and talks of privatization at your worksite.
AUPE’s Constitution sets out the duties of the Anti-Privatization Committee as follows:
The Anti-Privatization Committee shall:
Anti-Privatization Sub-Committee Protocols
When we talk about privatization, it’s important that we establish the stakes properly. There are lots of competing narratives about privatization, and the privatizers would love to confuse us with misinformation so that we don’t know what we’re fighting, or what to expect. But from the workers’ perspective, the stakes need to be clear—our livelihoods are on the line.
Have you heard any of these myths about contracting out, from your boss or even a misinformed co-worker? Let’s get to know some of the myths around privatization.
We will get to keep our jobs but have a different employer.
When workers think of privatization, we often hear the idea that if the service is privatized, we will get to stay on. There might be some cuts to wages or benefits, but at least we will have some stability, right? Wrong!
Everyone loses their job when services are privatized.
After a service is privatized, the entire staff is generally let go, and the contractor who has been hired begins building a new workforce.
Sometimes, that contractor might have a team ready to go, waiting in the wings, of their own staff. When that’s the case, nobody—or almost nobody—will get re-hired by the contractor. You’re out cold.
Other times, the contractor will look to build a workforce using workers from the recently-privatized service. In this case, some of your co-workers might get their jobs back—but everyone will have to reapply, and it will be at the discretion of the contractor whether or not you get re-hired.
Privatized delivery means stripping away needless bureaucracy so workers can focus more on service provision.
If you listen to politicians talk about it, you might think that privatization is all about “efficiency” and making service-delivery better. As workers, we know all too well that our jobs are made unnecessarily hard because of so many layers of middle management. So, what could be bad about focusing on the essentials?
Privatized services often force the workers who stay on to do more useless paperwork to track performance.
In fact, privatization doesn’t mean focusing on the essentials—it means re-focusing on profit, rather than on providing services. We’ll get into some numbers on this in section 2, but when it comes to your workplace, you need to know that privatization means that, if you’re “lucky” enough to get re-hired by the contractor, you’re more likely to have managers watching your every move and tracking performance.
When a profit-seeking company takes over a service, their main goal is to bank as much money as possible. That means that they need more metrics to track performance and make sure no one’s slacking off—so they give you more paperwork to file to track your efficiency, which keeps you away from providing the services you were hired to provide.
Working conditions don't change dramatically after privatization.
Some people believe—and privatizers encourage us to believe—that outsourcing will simply mean having a new boss to report to, while workers’ jobs won’t fundamentally change. Workloads should remain similar, and we might even get more efficient at doing our jobs.
Privatized services are more short-staffed, less safe, and higher-stress.
In fact, privatized workplaces are almost always worse places to work than the public services they replace. Because companies are looking to make a profit above all else, they are more likely to cut corners—that means short-staffing, over-working, and disregarding of safety standards.
We’ve seen it across the board when privatization happens—workers are expected to “do more with less,” and then get blamed when service quality declines. Our bosses try to cut corners on staffing to save some money and increase their profit margins, and we’re left holding the bag.
You keep your union contract after privatization.
This is a common misconception that ties into a lot of the myths we’ve talked about already.
We’ve heard co-workers say that if things really do get so bad after privatization, well then we’ll just file a grievance about it and fight it that way. Unfortunately, privatization takes that option away by removing the protections that come with a union contract.
If you get re-hired by the contractor, you will not have the same union contract and will likely not have a union at all.
When privatization occurs, the Alberta Labour Relations Board will decide whether or not your bargaining unit continues to exist under the contracted-out service. The vast majority of the time, the Alberta Labour Relations Board determines that the union no longer exists because the service is now a different enterprise.
That has a lot of implications—first off, all the gains that we have fought for over the years go out the window. Maybe your union contact has good sick day provisions that you and your co-workers prioritized—the new boss can get rid of those entirely and strip them down to the legal minimum. Maybe your collective agreement guarantees you a health spending account—the new boss has no obligation to continue that. If you’re one of the “lucky” ones who gets re-hired, expect your benefits to be gone.
That’s not all. When you have a union contract, you have protections for reporting and fixing problems at work—the most common use is the grievance process. Non-union workplaces don’t have those protections, and if you’re complaining, then your boss can retaliate against you much more easily. Having a union is about having power in the workplace, and an avenue to make your voice heard. Privatization is a way for employers to put up barricades on that avenue.