The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), joined by ACFO, CUPE, NUPGE, PIPSC, and the Canadian Labour Congress, is today launching a campaign to stop the contracting out of five heating and cooling plant operations in the National Capital Region. These plants presently provide service to about 100 buildings, including the Parliamentary Precinct, through a network of 14 kilometers of underground tunnels.
The Government of Canada is now in the process of choosing a corporate consortium to design, finance, build (modernize), maintain and operate the plants for a 30-year contract term under a so-called public-private partnership. Currently, public service workers (members of PSAC) operate some of the heating plants.
The unions are opposed to the privatization of plant operations for several reasons, including:
- heightened health and safety concerns affecting thousands of public service workers in downtown Ottawa;
- concerns around security clearances for contractors; and
- the higher cost of private financing versus public financing, and the prospect that taxpayers will be left to pick up the bills if the private consortium runs into problems, as it inevitably will.
“Trusting the maintenance and operations of this infrastructure to a profit-driven, private consortium, for the next 30 years or more, does not give me confidence that the safety of workers and the public will be the foremost priority,” said Chris Aylward, National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “There is overwhelming evidence that when governments hand over these kinds of projects to private interests they end up being more costly and accountability goes out the window.”
“We currently have skilled and reliable public service workers who are more than capable of doing the work,” added Greg McGillis, PSAC’s Regional Executive Vice-President for the NCR. “Why would we want to swap them out for big corporate contractors with histories of mismanagement and poor work quality.”
The unions are calling on the Trudeau government to immediately to stop the privatization process and meet with public service workers presently operating the plants to jointly develop a new plan for improving environmental performance, reducing energy costs, and enhancing overall safety. Only following this should the government issue a Request for Proposals to design and build new facilities, while keeping ongoing maintenance and operation in more cost-effective and accountable public hands.