Protecting public services during the pandemic and beyond

Even though the pandemic highlighted the importance of public services in keeping Canadians healthy and safe, cash-strapped employers may be vulnerable to a sales pitch for contracting out, or public-private partnerships (P3s).

If you spot a warning sign of privatization, or an opportunity to contract in work during the COVID-19 recovery, spread the word. Talk to your steward and your local executive. Your executive will contact the CUPE staff rep.  They’ll help assess the threat and connect with CUPE staff in education, communications, and research to develop a plan.

Be alert

Budgetary problems

An employer in financial difficulty may consider privatizing because of misguided desperation, even though privatization costs more and delivers less.

  • Does your employer have increased expenses related to COVID-19?
  • Have your employer’s revenue sources decreased because of COVID-19?
  • Was your employer having financial difficulty before the pandemic?
  • Are there options for financial support available to your employer?

Layoffs or redeployments

Reduced or frozen staff could set the stage for privatization

  • Has your employer laid off members because of the pandemic? If yes, did these layoffs affect part-time, temporary workers or seasonal workers?
  • Have workers been redeployed to other service areas?
  • These questions also apply to hiring freezes.

Cuts to public services

Public services cuts could lead to privatization

  • Have public services been cut, suspended, or canceled in response to COVID-19?
  • Which types of services have been affected?
  • How will this affect the public?

Emergency legislation and by-laws

Changes to procurement rules or collective agreement protections as a result of emergency legislation could set the stage for privatization

  • What has emergency legislation changed for your employer (e.g. workforce redeployment, public service levels, collective agreement protections)?
  • Has emergency legislation suspended collective agreement protections against contracting out?
  • Has your employer hired additional staff during the pandemic to do bargaining unit work?

Contracting in

If workers are laid off, are there opportunities to bring contracted out work back in house?

  • Is your employer putting out tenders for newly contracted out work? Could this work be done by workers who are laid off or by hiring additional workers?
  • Is there a possibility for your employer to cancel private contracts and redeploy workers instead of laying them off, bringing work back in house?
  • Has COVID-19 highlighted any problems with contracted-out services? Could there be an opportunity to contract in work such as landscaping, cleaning, food services, or IT?

For more information on being prepared or taking action, visit

For more information on privatization, visit


Together, we can stop privatization before it starts.