You will be aware that one of the conditions imposed on Greece to get money from the EU members states and IMF (bail-out) is to privatise many of its companies including in the public sector. One of these companies is the Water Company in Thessaloniki. The union of this company and citizens have started an action (Initiative 136) to ensure the company remains under control of the population. 136 Euro is the amount a household needs to pay to ensure the company remains in the hands of the public. We will have colleagues from the union coming to the Alternative World Water Forum in Marseille.
Below further information on this remarkable fight back.
Jan Willem Goudriaan
The Initiative 136 is a grassroots moralization, which tries to stop the sale of Thessaloniki's water company (EYATH). Selling off EYATH is a part of condition that Greece government to access to a loan under the austerity measures imposed by the European Commission and other institutions. As EYATH's sale is most likely to be pursued, the Initiative 136 has prepared to compete with global water companies in a public tender (which is planned in May 2012 already!) to buy EYATH by citizens. Alexandros KASTRINAKIS and Georgios ARCHONTOPOULOS, the secretary general of the worker's trade union of EYATH are coming to the upcoming Alternative World Water Forum (FAME 14-17 March) in Marseilles. Marseilles will be an important venue for international community to express solidarity and find ways to support them.
I am Theo, writing on behalf of Initiative 136.
Two weeks ago the Greek parliament ratified the "memorandum 2" (to popular outrage) according to which Thessaloniki's water company (EYATH) is among the public utility companies that will be sold off. The government wants to "speed up" the process, so they have dictated to the local and national press to support the sale-off. Suddenly there appear several articles praising the privatisation and how it will "help the country out of its debt", (a silly excuse: the company's value is estimated at 50 million euros, while the country's debt exceeds 400 billion!), while our press releases to all media go largely unnoticed.
The government wants to have the company sold by september, so the call to public tender will take place by May. The Initiative's strategy is twofold: 1) we will try to stop the sale altogether 2) in the case that the sale goes forward, we will present a "citizen's participation" in the public tender, with a fully developed plan for social management of the company by it's users.
Our plan to achieve it envisions the creation of 16 local cooperatives that are based on citizens participation. These cooperatives will be the shareholders of the new company that will claim the acquisition of EYATH. Each household will have a "participation" of 136 euros that will guarantee their inclusion in the decision making process.The participation will be non-transferable, no one will be able to speculate with it, and we will apply the principle of 1 household (water meter) = 1 vote, so no one will be able to "buy" influence over decision making.
We are a totally independent citizen's initiative and so far we have been financing our campaigning only by raising money from members. This means we cannot develop our actions as swiftly as our opponents. The first few cooperatives have been created however, and we should now make a large-scale campaign for the subscription of people in their local coop.
Our main strength comes from people´s disenchantment with the political system and their explicit support for grassroots alternatives. In a recent poll (carried out by an "establishment" newspaper!), over 75% of those who knew our proposal were in favour of it. We also have the support of all mayors and local town councils of Thessaloniki´s metropolitan areas.
It will not be easy however. We have to fight against hostile media and government, and hardest of all, we have to fight against many people´s fear, cynicism and resignation. In Greece right now, all labour, economic and social rights are under attack; all public goods are being sold off to multinationals; huge sectors of the populations are driven to poverty; thousand of businesses close every day, jobs are lost and economic uncertainty is the rule.
It will be a hard task to convince people that in all this catastrophe the one thing that we should salvage and protect is water as a public good .
But we are determined to do it! We plan to carry out an extensive campaign through all means. If Isvara approves the grand it will go towards financing a radio and television commercial. Any additional money we could raise could go towards publications in the written and electronic press, sending out of leaflets to all citizens by mail, and the organisation of local-level events to present the proposal. The campaign will take place in the months of March, April and May, or until the day of the public tender when it is announced.
This will go hand-in-hand with direct action on our behalf. We are determined to call to marches and occupy buildings if this makes our voice heard. Yesterday we proceeded, together with the worker's trade unions, to a symbolic (but very useful also) occupation of EYATH's headquarters on the day that the economic counselors appointed by the government visited to "evaluate" the company.
Thank you very much for your time!
on behalf of the "Initiative 136"