How are things with water privatization now?

Workers at the utility Copasa in Chile continue their struggle against privatization. More than 4,000 workers have been fighting a grueling battle for months against layoffs and massive pay cuts. The bosses want to replace the overworked employees with cheaper replacement labor. Comrades from Corriente Revolucionaria de Trabajadores (CGT) have been on strike, occupying the company's main offices and picketing them day and night.

This struggle has received international support from organizations such as Public Services International (PSI), Industrial (global union of metal and mining workers) and many others. We also explained how this struggle is linked to the plans of the government of President Michelle Bachelet, supported by various political parties, including the Chilean Communist Party (PCC), to privatize the water supply. The first takeover of Copasa's main office began on 8 May. But the workers' militancy did not start there. Since November 2010, Copasa workers have united to fight layoffs and pay cuts, holding monthly three-day partial strikes.

On 29 June, many workers gathered outside the city of Antofagasta to begin a sit-in, where they had been on strike for more than a week. The workers chose a strategy of seizing all the water tanks in the city and denying access to them until their demands were met. This action has paralysed normal life in Antofagasta, whose 600,000 residents depend on tap water from Copasa. The city is currently experiencing a shortage of drinking water, leading to the destruction of crops and even the death of farm animals; some desperate citizens are breaking into Copasa trucks carrying drinking water.

The provincial governor, a member of the right-wing UDI (Independent Democratic Union) party, imposed a state of emergency in Antofagasta, allowing security forces to disperse the protests and evict the occupiers from the Copasa offices and trucks. On 10 July, however, four workers went on hunger strike in one of the Copasa tanks to continue their protest.

On the same day, six riot police trucks escorted 14 strikers out of the main gate of the Copasa headquarters in Santiago. The workers stood there for more than a week, but were quickly replaced by others.

The government tried to resume negotiations with representatives of the protesting workers, but they refuse to negotiate under pressure from police and reprisals; they demand guarantees that all strikers currently facing criminal charges will be released and that the company will not fire strikers in the future.

This struggle is just one example of the growing resistance from workers across Chile, many of whom have been on strike for the better part of a year. At Copisa and other companies such as ENDESA (the national electricity company), LAB (a subsidiary of LATAM Airlines) and the CFK bus company, bosses are stepping on workers' rights with similar methods of layoffs, wage cuts and layoffs. With this level of resistance from Chilean workers, the government's privatization plans are likely to be met with further mobilization.

Chilean students continue struggle for free education

On 12 July, more than 25,000 Chilean secondary school students went on strike to protest against government education policies that have led to cuts in subsidies to state secondary schools and increased fees for admission to private universities. Today in Chile there are two types of secondary schools: public (85% of students enrolled) and municipal or other local authorities. These schools are currently suffering from funding cuts, which have led to the dismissal of teachers and other school staff. In response, the government has raised tuition fees in private secondary schools by 20 per cent.

Privatization of water in Canada

In the last twenty years Canada has been privatizing its municipal water services. The biggest Canadian town with a private water treatment facility is Montreal. However, there are smaller towns like Oakville, Dorval and Hamilton that have or will soon be switching over to private water treatment.

The current discussion about this privatization is focused around whether people should pay more for their water in order to keep it publically run by the government. The Council of Canadians provided an example of Toronto, Ontario which is in the process of privatizing its water supply. Residents are concerned about higher costs, less transparency and fears that multinational corporations will reap windfall profits. The Council of Canadians argues that privatization leads to weaker consumer protection regulation which ultimately makes people pay more for water. They proposed an alternative option instead would be to reinvest savings into public infrastructure by not giving it to private corporations.

Even though there is a lot of opposition against the privatization of water, the Council of Canadians admits that "dramatic improvements in service standards and environmental outcomes" have been seen in cities such as Atlanta, Calgary and Seattle where they use public-private partnerships (P3) instead of selling off their water utilities. The P3 model creates a public company owned by the city and a private contractor to run its day-to-day operations.

So instead of simply privatizing water services, it seems like there needs to be a better balance between government control and allowing for some private sector involvement in order for water systems to improve while staying affordable.

The online casino against water privatization in Canada

"WOW – water on web" gained the attention of many media outlets, bloggers and tweeters. With its successful campaign to support community-based water management in Canada it also became a game changer within the international debate about this crucial natural resource. WOW not only raised awareness about what is happening with water but it also put some much-needed pressure on the corporate lobbyists, who are trying to push the privatization of water in Canada.

The best Canadian online casino was launched by Polaris Institute , a research organization that exposes the threats posed by corporations to democracy and the environment in Canada and around the world. It targets TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline project in particular. The oil company wants to build an Energy East Pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. It would transmit 1,500 million barrels of oil per day. The pipeline would cross almost 2,000 bodies of water and many of the communities along the path have been worried ever since TransCanada shared its plans about this project.

The alliance is now working on a campaign called 'No Pipe Dream' with environmental groups across Canada and the United States. This campaign is focused on informing Canadians about TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline project and the true intentions behind it.

Hydro One Not For Sale, a campaign of The Citizens Coalition Against Privatization (CCAP)
Hydro One Pas à vendre!, une campagne de la Coalition des citoyens contre la privatisation (CCCP)