SIPTU NEC response to the Government’s policy on public water supply
Date Released: 21 November 2014
The Government’s initiative of 19th November 2014, while offering clarity and certainty on water charges, will not provide a comprehensive long-term solution for the challenges confronting the development of the public water system.
- Its most immediate flaw is that the charges regime remains regressive in character. The objective should be to provide every household with an adequate supply of water to meet all their domestic needs at no direct cost, while retaining the option of a tariff on non-essential use only as a conservation measure. The Government should announce its intention to do this.
- Policy on the development of the public water supply should not be decided in the context of a fiscal austerity programme, which is now totally unnecessary in any event. It calls for a properly informed and structured public debate. If the current projections for economic growth are achieved, Irish Water could be re-designated as a democratically controlled Water Authority or a non-commercial semi-state company within the lifetime of the next government, without further increasing taxation or cutting public spending. This would enable charges to be dispensed with altogether, retaining a tariff on non-essential use only.
- We must have a Referendum to insert a provision in the Constitution prohibiting the privatisation of the public water supply. Otherwise, there is a real danger that we will drift into privatisation due, for example, to the inability of Irish Water to collect its revenues. In this regard, we welcome the decision of the Executive Council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to support, promote and campaign for such a referendum.
- Therefore, in the absence of a declaration by the Government of its intention to provide every household with an adequate supply of water to meet all its domestic needs at no direct cost, while retaining a tariff on non-essential use only and to legislate for a Referendum to prohibit privatisation, we will work with other trade unions and civil society organisations, including those involved in Right2Water, to campaign through peaceful protests and other democratic actions, to achieve these objectives.