Bring waste collection services back in-house, CUPE urges councillors

The City of Winnipeg's largest union is trying to convince councillors to consider bringing residential garbage and recycling collection back in-house.

EPC to discuss awarding contracts to 2 private contractors, dumping Emterra

CUPE Local 500 officials are appearing on Wednesday before council's executive policy committee as it discusses awarding waste collection contracts to two private contractors. (CBC)

The City of Winnipeg's largest union is trying to convince councillors to consider bringing residential garbage and recycling collection back in-house.

CUPE Local 500 officials are appearing before council's executive policy committee (EPC) on Wednesday as it discusses awarding contracts for two private companies to take over citywide garbage, recycling and yard waste collection from Emterra next year.

Union president Gord Delbridge said CUPE will show the committee there is public support for having politicians at least look at having public employees take on that work.

A Probe Research poll commissioned by CUPE Manitoba suggests that 59 per cent of residents surveyed believe the city should look into having city workers carry out waste collection before signing any new contracts.

The poll also suggests that 58 per cent of respondents would prefer to have city employees collect garbage and recycling, compared to 32 per cent who were in favour of using private contractors, provided that both options cost roughly the same.

"It's a clear majority of Winnipeggers that would like to see garbage collection come back in-house," Delbridge told CBC News before the committee meeting.

"I think that we can do that at a cost savings. I think that we can do it with a better quality of service. We are non-profit."

Probe Research surveyed a random sample of 600 Winnipeg adults by telephone Sept. 13-26. The results are considered accurate within four percentage points 19 times out of 20 compared to a sample size of the entire Winnipeg adult population.

'It keeps falling on deaf ears'

However, Delbridge said he's worried that councillors on EPC, which is also known as the mayor's inner circle, will simply vote in line with Mayor Brian Bowman to approve the private contracts without even considering the option of bringing waste collection in-house.

"We've been going to council at the expiration of every garbage collection contract since they privatized garbage, and it keeps falling on deaf ears," Delbridge said.

"They want to remain on this committee and as a result, I guarantee you today and mark my words, every councillor on that committee is going to vote in favour of contracting this work out, despite the fact that a clear majority of Winnipeggers want to see it come back in-house."

The City of Winnipeg privatized garbage collection services in 2005 with the goal of improving the city's bottom line through cost savings and increased competition.

Emterra has been collecting residential garbage across the city and recycling from most of the city since 2012. Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly known as BFI, handles the rest of the recycling collection.

A report before council recommends both companies be replaced by two other firms. ​The city is poised to award Miller Waste Systems a seven-year contract to collect garbage and recycling in the northwest half of Winnipeg, while GFL Environmental would collect waste in the southeast half.

The proposal is going to EPC even though it does not have a recommendation from the city's water and waste committee. Some councillors on that committee want the city to take more time to explore in-house waste collection as an option.