Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Major union says...

Don't pay watercharges

THE DECISION by the NIPSA Conference to back non-payment as "the only way" to defeat water charges is a major boost for the "We Won't Pay Campaign". NIPSA is the largest trade union in Northern Ireland representing over 40,000 public servants.

Up until now, it has been a part of the broad Coalition Against Water Charges but has argued against the non-payment strategy of the "We Won't Pay Campaign" on this body. This will now have to change.

NIPSA is one of a growing number of organisations now lining up to support non-payment. The Fire Brigades Union have given assistance to the "We Won't Pay Campaign!" Queens University Students Union has voted to support the campaign. A number of Trades Councils now back non-payment. New "We Won't Pay" groups are springing up in more and more areas as people realise that, with the charge due to be introduced in less than a year, there is no time to waste in building opposition.

Activists in other unions should now move motions through their branches to get their union to follow the example of the NIPSA Conference.

While trade union and community activists are more and more coming behind the non-payment call, the local political parties are moving in the opposite direction.

During the recent election, all the parties proclaimed loudly their opposition to this tax. However when they were in power in the Assembly the four main parties all agreed to introduce water charges.

None of the main political parties support non-payment. The latest party to come out in opposition is Sinn Fein with Gerry Adams arguing that non-payment would not succeed.

This flies in the face of the experience of the anti poll tax campaign in Britain in the 80s and the campaign against water charges in the Dublin area in the mid 90s, which were won because they were based on the tactic of mass non payment.

The parties have one eye on the possibility of a restored Assembly in which they would once again be faced with the decision whether or not to introduce water charges. They do not want to have a non-payment campaign to deal with and are therefore not prepared to help such a campaign develop in the meantime.

Water charges can be defeated - but only by determined action by working class people. Non-payment groups need to be established in all communities to organise people to stand together and refuse to pay.

The "We Won't Pay Campaign" has launched a non-payment pledge and is now stepping up the work of getting people to sign up. Local groups can build support for non-payment by taking this pledge door to door.

If all this work is done successfully the government may go ahead and introduce the charge but they will not be able to make it stick.

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