Cosatu threatens protest action if water crisis is not addressed

Cosatu warned that it would “mobilise” its members for protest action if the government did not address the looming water crisis soon.

Spokesperson Patrick Craven said the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) had joined other organisations in the campaign to highlight the water crisis.

Cosatu had submitted a notice setting out the problems and challenges and demanding urgent measures to resolve the crisis, he said, noting that the Federation of Unions of SA had also filed a Section 77 notice on water.

“Should there be no progress in addressing the challenges raised in this application, Cosatu will have no option but to mobilise its members for a protest which will take the form of marches, demonstrations, pickets and stayaways,” said Craven.

Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socio-economic interests.

In terms of the Labour Relations Act, the National Economic Development and Labour Council must bring the parties to a section 77 notice together, to attempt to resolve the reasons for the contemplated protest action.

Craven said that while the number of people with access to water had increased since 1994, the quality of water available to South Africans was not acceptable.

An increasing number of water service users had serious complaints about the quality.

While in 76% of water users were satisfied with the quality in 2005 and 72% in 2007, only 58.8% were satisfied in 2009.
People complained that the water they received was “not clean, clear, good in taste or free from bad smells”.

“These complaints represent the microcosm of the water challenges the country is facing: pollution, poor quality and scarcity,” said Craven.

Among other things, there was poor sanitation and water service delivery, eutrophication (excessive nutrients) in dams and rivers, failing waste water treatment infrastructure and acid mine drainage.

Craven said an enhanced exploration of ground water, which should not only be relied upon during droughts, was one of the measures that could be adopted to address the water challenge.

Other measures included desalination, rainwater harvesting, conservation and water reuse.

Cosatu had called for policies that included punitive incentives against those who wasted and polluted water, especially large water users.

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