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(en) Ireland, Organise! Working Class Resistance #8 - Defeat the Water Tax

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 17 Feb 2005 10:20:38 +0100 (CET)

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First the government lied to us claiming we didn’t pay for water. Pressure from
anti-water reform campaigners forced them to back down on that particular lie.
Now they admit that we already pay - but less than elsewhere in the
UK. If that’s a comparison to be taken seriously then the government
better start taking action to close the gap in the levels of earnings
in Northern Ireland and Britain.
In the north our wages are consistently lower than elsewhere in
Britain and the Irish republic. A quarter of our pensioners and a
third of our children live in poverty. While wages are lower poverty
and unemployment are higher than anywhere else across these islands.

Yet we are unlikely to hear government ministers complaining
about this. In relation to water charges and privatisation in England,
Scotland and Wales the point is that these attacks on other sections
of the working class, carried out by the New Labour government,
do not mean that we should roll over and let them implement water
charges and privatisation on us. Let there be no doubt about it, this
‘reform’ represents yet another attack on working class
people and our standard of living and health.

So what can we do to stop it?

Organise! advise caution against trusting any of our local
politicians. While direct rule has given them the luxury of
permanent opposition we remember that when the Assembly was
running all the parties in the executive accepted the need for a
water reform policy that including ‘restructuring’, private
sector involvement and charges. Just as they approved the future
increase of our rates to pay back a Treasury loan to ‘make
up’ for years of under-investment.

As for our Trade Union leaders and bureaucrats, even with the best
intentions, they will negotiate a slightly better defeat rather than see
this attack defeated. They are already resisting calls for a mass
campaign of non-payment and while the water workers industrial
action is to be applauded and supported the pressure must be
maintained by the rank and file of the unions to ensure that this sort
of action is maintained.

For the fulltime negotiators however knocking the ‘rough
edges’ off water reform, reducing redundancies and improving
the package is the sort of game they are used to playing - and this
sort of game will not defeat the water charges or privatisation. We
do not discount the central role that water service workers and trade
union members have to the building of this campaign against
cutbacks, privatisation and charges and if necessary such workers
should be preparing to take the struggle directly into their own
hands if it appears that the bureaucracy are preparing to strike a
In reality the only method at our disposal that can stop privatisation
and charging is to oppose them outright. This demands more than
the empty words of politicians or reliance on Trade Union officials -
the only people we can rely on are ourselves, our neighbours in
working class communities and the workers who will suffer
cutbacks and privatisation and be expected to pay.
This campaign must be built from the bottom up, street by street
and working class community by working class community. The
principle tactic of this campaign must be mass non-payment. While
we need to prepare adequate funds for legal costs in the event of
court action against non-payers we must remember that the Poll
Tax was defeated when mass non-payment clogged the courts and
made collection next to impossible. Non payment of water charges
in the south led to the defeat of government attempts to impose
water charges in December 1996. Anything less than non-payment
is courting defeat. We cannot afford to do that.

Help build the campaign, forget the top down approach and help
build local opposition in your street and neighbouring streets. When
there are enough groups then is when we should look at coming
together and co-ordinating our opposition. Anything short of this is
building on sand.

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