EDMONTON - In response to the news that Edmonton City Council is moving ahead with plans to privatize bus cleaning, Public Interest Alberta’s Executive Director Bradley Lafortune issued the following statement:
“We stand in solidarity with the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 to demand that the Edmonton City Council rescind this privatization scheme. This short-sighted plan will lead to the loss of over 100 jobs for workers who have been essential to the health and safety of Edmontonians over the past year in the fight against COVID-19. At a time when working people are already struggling, layoffs are completely unacceptable.
‘This most recent move is embedded in a larger context of privatization of our public transit system, and public services across our city services. While the City of Edmonton has been tasked to “Reimagine” city services against the backdrop of heightened strain on services due to COVID, drastic structural changes like these in an election year is tying the hands of a new city council and not setting them up for success. Governmental budgets are about choices, even during difficult times. While the city’s public services are on the chopping block, Council has blown a $22.9 million hole in the revenues of the city over the next several years through tax breaks to residential developers.
Last December, Council instructed Administration to ‘conduct a review’ of the service, not contract it out. Council should demand from Administration this review of the service, immediately, before any request for proposal process is undertaken to ‘test the market’. Any failure to do this would be a fundamentally backward order of operations, not to mention grossly disrespectful to the workers who have performed the essential task of cleaning our buses during this pandemic.
Without the work of the community organizers at Free Transit Edmonton, Council would have upped cash fares to be the highest in all of Canada. This speaks volumes about the priorities of City Council - where the mobility needs of low-income and vulnerable Edmontonians carry less weight than big money developers - and the importance of organizing and activism.
It’s been shown again and again that contracting out public services to private third parties is a shell game–it costs more in the long run with worse results. City Council needs to do the right thing and listen to the demands of its own employees providing this service. Edmonton deserves a public transit system that is fully public.”