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Build a united campaign

21 March 2006

CAWP leaflet distributed at a demonstration in Belfast against water charges. 

There’s one burning need that those willing to fight against water privatisation and water charges must face.  That’s the need for a single united, democratic campaign against water privatisation.

There is no use in pretending that this is the start of the campaign.  We are several years into the fight.  It’s half time.  New Labour has played a blinder.  They have taken a whole series of steps in a ‘consultation’ process to get community organisations and trade unions onside. They have assured us that the poorest sections of society will face only limited increases and in any case they will stagger the increases over a number of years.  In a blatant attempt to divert the opposition they have introduced water meters into the equation.

All this manoeuvring has not slowed down the offensive in the slightest.  Water treatment has been handed over to the multinationals. Water board offices are being sold off.  Plans to set up a go-co – a government company set up before full privatisation – are on track. All new labour promises will be null and void once water passes to private hands. A new call centre is being established – 180 new jobs in debt collection.

The next stage of the offensive is well under way, with Peter Hain announcing ‘year zero’ for public service – fewer jobs, less pay, smaller pensions, more public money handed over to the private sector.

Our team have stumbled and fallen from one collapse after another. This week sees the third relaunch of the campaign.

It’s divided into four or five separate campaigns with no real justification for the separation.

The de facto leadership of the trade unions is undemocratic and simply switches on and off the campaign meetings at whim.  For fear of being thought political they force a sharp separation between industrial action around wages and conditions and political campaigns against charges and privatisation.

The majority of the political and community campaigns avoid the controversy around privatisation by sticking to a simple ‘can’t pay – won’t pay’ slogan.

We in the Campaign Against Water Privatisation want to see a united campaign.  We are trying to do this from the bottom up, by touring local areas, providing background resources and a newsletter and developing a democratic network open to all willing to fight against the loss of a vital public resource – water and the misery its privatisation will bring.


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