From the TUC

European citizens demand the right-2-water & sanitation

08 Jun 2013, By

ACT TODAY: add your signature to the union-backed European Citizens’ Initiative petition calling on the EU to implement the human right to access to water and sanitation. And then get your friends, family and work mates to do the same. If they can’t sign up on line, print off a petition and return it to Matthew Lay, UNISON, 130 Euston Road, NW1 2AY London: the petition has the support of the TUC and all water/sanitation unions in the UK.

At the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) mid-term conference in Dublin this week, Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, General Secretary of the European Public Services Union (EPSU) announced that over 1.6 million Europeans have signed a petition (on and offline) promoted by trade unions calling for water and sanitation to be public services, guaranteeing access for all, as part of the Right2Water campaign.

In the UK, water and sanitation has already been privatised, but the tide has started turning on public ownership of such utilities. Scandals, mismanagement and the economic crisis mean people now care much more than they did about who is providing public services, as well as how well it’s done. A strong showing for the ECI in the UK, linked to pressure to defend these utilities from privatisation and liberalisation across the rest of the EU, could make a real difference. The European Commission should focus on ensuring water and sanitation for all citizens in Europe and adopt a rights-based approach instead of its current market-based approach.

The petition is known as a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which means that if a million European citizens (with thresholds of signature in at least seven countries) sign up, the European Commission has to consider acting on it. The Right2Water ECI has secured sufficient support already, in 9 countries, but unions want to keep gathering signatures, with the aim of 2 million signatures by the deadline set in European legislation this September. In the UK, we want to reach the 55,000 signature target set out in EU legislation.

The campaign, launched by unions across Europe last year (Unison’s Dave Prentis is one of the sponsors), is backed by trade unionists and politicians like the Mayors of Leicester (Sir Peter Soulsby), Brussels, Copenhagen, Genoa, Paris, Vienna and more. But the list of Ambassadors includes church leaders, singers, professors and Finnish Olympic swimmer (no stranger to water, then!) Hanna-Maria Seppälä. She says:

“Water is a crucially important element for me for the sake of training, good physical condition and health. Water is the basic prerequisite for life and, therefore, safe, clean water should be a basic right available to everyone.”

The TUC Executive in April agreed to promote not just the Right2Water ECI, but other initiatives on media ownership – promoted by the European Federation of Journalists and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom – and on quality care services for the elderly, backed by the National Pensioners Convention and the ETUC pensioners’ movement FERPA (forthcoming.)

3 Responses to European citizens demand the right-2-water & sanitation

  1. [email protected]
    Jun 10th 2013, 7:13 pm

    We all have a right to clean water and sanitation – not just a select few. I support this campaign for all EU citizens to have access to clean water, but would like this to be a global campaign too!

  2. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Jun 10th 2013, 8:48 pm

    Rhona, indeed, the human right of access to water and sanitation should apply everywhere, and global union confederation PSI is campaigning for just that. The ECI mechanism only applies to the EU, but we should keep up the campaign globally.

    Jun 25th 2013, 10:12 pm

    […] campaigning works. Just over a fortnight ago, we urged you to join the Right2Water campaign run by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), […]