Housing, hospitals, schools, water, energy – all the things we depend for our daily lives – are being privatised so that big business can profit. But across the world from Bolivia to Britain people are organising, fighting back and proposing better alternatives. These are the things we have fought hard for and won. Don’t sit back and let them take our cities and resources from us.
Two public meetings in Leeds will bring people together to discuss what’s happening and plan how we can respond.
The first meeting of the 'Our Cities are not for Sale!' events takes place on 12 July at the 'Common Place Social Centre' in the city centre. It features high-profile Bolivian trade unionist and anti-privatisation campaigner, Oscar Olivera Foronda, who is visiting Leeds as part of a nation-wide tour to deliver a message of solidarity and hope: ‘If we can beat privatisation in Bolivia then you can do it in Leeds’.
Oscar Olivera is the executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers in Bolivia and spokesperson for the Coalition in Defence of Water and Life (known as ‘La Coordinadora’). He will speak about the popular uprising against privatisation in Bolivia since 2000 that recently swept the socialist president Evo Morales to power.
The charismatic activist, known as ‘El Chato’ to his comrades, helped lead a mass movement in Cochabamba against US multinational Bechtel who had taken over the water systems as an IMF-imposed condition for debt relief. As part of a corrupt deal, Bechtel raised water rates sky-high and took over communally-constructed and managed water supplies run for centuries by its people. Thousand of citizens protested for weeks despite huge government repression. Olivera emerged from hiding to negotiate with the government and in April 2000, ‘La Coordinadora’ won its demands when the government turned over control of the city's water system to the organisation and cancelled the privatisation contract.
During the event, Oscar will be joined by a trade activist campaigning against the harmful trade role played by the European Union in Latin America, and a speaker from the Rossport Solidarity Camp in Ireland who will explain how they are supporting local people’s fight against oil giant Shell's plan to build an unprecedented high pressure gas pipeline through the hamlet of Rossport.
Local campaigners aim to use the opportunity of Oscar’s visit to link the struggles of people abroad to those closer to home and launch a city-wide anti-privatisation network. Introducing the need for such a network will be local trade unionist John McDermott from Leeds Unison.
In order to get this network off the ground, the 12 July public meeting will be followed a week later by a second city-wide meeting located in a key local site of struggle against privatisation - the Little London estate. 'Our Homes are not for Sale - Challenging Privatisation in Leeds' will be held on the 19 July at 'Space@', behind Little London Community Primary School.
It features John Allott, National Housing Officer of Amicus trade union, who will speak about current government policy to decimate council housing in the country and the Defend Council Housing campaign.
Also invited to speak are tenants' representatives from Swarcliffe estate in Leeds, the first housing PFI undertaken by Leeds City Council and a total disaster. It took nearly 6 years for a contract to be signed and although a majority of tenants were in favour, there is now growing alarm by locals as to shoddy work being carried out by PFI contractors and the string of broken promises about what they would get. They will be joined by speakers from Little London and a range of defend public services campaigns.
Wednesday 12 July 6pm-late
Fighting the privatisation of resources: voices from the frontline
@The Common Place Social Centre
Featuring Oscar Olivera
Spokesperson for the Coalition in Defence of Water and Life (‘La Coordinadora’) in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Nick Buxton, trade activist based in La Paz, Bolivia
John McDermott, local trade unionist, Leeds Unison
Fin, Rossport Solidarity Camp against Shell, Ireland
++ Film screenings, food, and benefit party
The Common Place, 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds
For a map, see http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=53.7956&lon=-1.5377&scale=5000&icon=x
Wednesday 19 July, 7pm-9pm
Our Homes are not for Sale: Challenging Privatisation in Leeds
Space@, Little London Community Primary School
Featuring John Allott
Amicus National Housing Officer
Speaker from Swarcliffe Tenants and Residents Association
Speakers from the Save Little London Campaign and different campaign groups in Leeds
Space@ is located behind Little London Community Primary School, Oatland Close, Little London, Leeds
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07775886617
Both events have been organised by a coalition of anti-privatisation campaigners in the city including Save Little London Campaign, Amicus, Unison, activists from the Common Place social centre, and the 'Who Really Runs Leeds?' project.