Oppose Water Charges

By Terry McDonagh Socialist Voice June 2003

AT THE "consultation" meetings called to ask us what way we wanted to pay water charges and how we would like our water to be privatised, the government got their answer.

At the Derry meeting the entire audience walked out. In Enniskillen a motion moved by Socialist Party member, Paul Dale, rejecting separate charges and calling for a properly funded, publicly owned service was passed unanimously by the 50 strong crowd.

The 200 people at the Belfast meeting also unanimously rejected the proposed charges and demanded that the government's document be withdrawn. These meetings showed that:

* there is no support for water charges. The proposed 350-400 initial charge is just extra taxation.
* we already pay for our water through the regional rate. The extra charge is double taxation
* the charge will be an impossible burden for the less well off. There will be no exemptions, pensioners and those on benefits will have to pay.
* the charge will be for a worse service. 600 jobs are to go immediately, with more job losses to follow, this at a time when more resources are needed to develop the service
* the real aim is to make the water service "self financing" so that it can be sold off and fat cat directors can make a killing at our expense.
The trade unions have decided to launch a campaign to oppose these charges. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to organise a meeting of unions and other groups to launch this campaign.

The Socialist Party will be represented at the meeting and will be arguing for a broad based and democratic campaign involving trade union, community organisations and other groups who are campaigning against this charge.

Industrial action to oppose cuts and job losses must be considered. But the most effective way to defeat this double taxation is to organise a mass campaign of non-payment.

Although the charge is not due to come into effect before April 2003, the time to prepare a non-payment campaign is now. The Socialist Party has already taken to the streets on this issue and we have had an overwhelming response. We are proposing launching a non-payment pledge to which households can sign up. Resolute opposition can make it impossible for Westminster or a local Assembly to introduce their tap tax.

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