Delegates at IMPACT’s local government conference in Wexford have been urged to support an EU wide campaign to help prevent any future privatisation of water in EU countries.
Shane Lambert, chair of the union’s local government division, told delegates “This union is utterly opposed the privatisation of water. The provision of water and sanitation should be recognised as a human right. As such, any attempt to privatise or commodify water services, any attempt to let water become subject to the influence of the market, any attempt to allow profits to be drawn from Ireland’s water infrastructure will be opposed forcefully and decisively.”
He said it was essential that union members take necessary steps to safeguard the future of public water provision. He called on members to support the Right to Water campaign, which he said has the potential to force the EU to consider proposals to protect water and sanitation services from privatisation.
The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) launched the campaign to protect water as a human right in 2012. It has met its first target of attracting one million petition signatures across the EU. The campaign is one of the first to use the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI).
IMPACT delegates also debated motions relating to the creation of Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis Energy. A number of union branches put forward motions calling for the protection of terms and conditions of staff providing water services in local authorities, and to ensure the future provision of direct labour from local authorities.
IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly told delegates that a small number of staff have been voluntarily moved from local authorities to the Irish Water programme, an interim body set up to prepare for the establishment of Irish Water next year. “For local authority staff currently involved in the provision of water services, the key element is the negotiation of service level agreements with Bord Gáis Energy. These will aim to ensure that staff continue to provide these services as local authority workers over the long term. Initially there was a guarantee that such staff would continue to provide the service until 2017 at the earliest. In later negotiations on service level agreements, the union secured agreement that the services would continue to be provided by local authorities significantly beyond 2017” he said.