Introduction to Public Utilities and EPSU
The President of the EPSU standing committee for Public Utilities is Sven Bergelin. The EPSU policy officer is Jan Willem Goudriaan.
What are the main issues for EPSU ?
A secure supply of energy, clean water, and sustainable waste management are basic needs for each individual in society. The users of these rights must be confident that their needs are being met; that they are provided for in fair and environmentally responsible manner at a just price. The best way of ensuring this is through public control, and even ownership, of the utilities and proper regulation – regulation of those private and public utilities that supply these needs, Too often the people left out of the equation are the very ones who ensure these services – the public utility workers. EPSU’s job is to make sure that, at the European level, the voices of electicity, gas, water and waste workers are heard and listened to. We represent workers throughout this sector and our responsibility is to ensure that their expertise in the public utilities is established as an intregal part of EU policy.
What is the European context ?
EPSU warned that introducing competition and the internal market in electricity and gas would result in massive job losses, erosion of the skill-base, concentration of power and profits in the hands of a few mega-companies, loss of democratic control, lack of investment and higher prices for domestic households and more energy poverty. This has all happened. 10 years and 3 major pieces of legislation later, the EU is still seeking to fix what it broke with workers and users reeling under the consequences It has made addressing climate change and security of supply more difficult.
The European Commission continues to examine how competition can be introduced in the water sector. Their proposals to liberalise water services have been stopped by EPSU and a broad coalition of water activists, social groups and environmental organisations.
Preventing, reducing and re-using wastes is an EU policy objective EPSU shares. We question the creation of an EU waste market and weakening of regulation.
What are our main objectives ?
If you are in a hole stop digging. EPSU wants EU politicians to rethink the experience of liberalised electricity and gas markets and stop the export of this malfunctioning product to neighboring countries in South East Europe, Ukraine and beyond. EPSU puts the public service character of the energy sector upfront. This is based on the many years experience with well-functioning regulated and often publicly owned energy systems that ensured a good deal for users, investment in new capacity, skilled workers and high quality services. We want Europe’s citizens to have a say on their energy future and not leave it to undefined market forces and corporate greed. Ensuring secure supply, decreasing our fuel dependency and mass public investment in energy efficiency, renewables and technologies that reduce global warming are key objectives of EPSU.
Our focus is on water as a human right and sustainable water policies. We want more cooperation between public water companies and will oppose competition and liberalisation.
And in the waste sector EPSU aims to address cut throat competition which undermines pay and working conditions with workers being killed due to unsafe working practices and excessive hours. In energy, water and waste we also seek regulation of outsourcing and improved pay and conditions for the workers involved.
What is EPSU trying to acheive ?
EPSU want policies in the utilities of which all European people can be proud. Europe’s citizens want safe drinking water, energy to heat the home and society’s waste being dealt with. And we have practical, common sense proposals to ensure this. The EU needs a regulatory system which is democratic and transparent; guarantees long-term objectives and investment and a high qualified skill base in sectors dependent on techincal know-how. Workers and their unions in EPSU are committed to pursing these policy objectives and directly bringing the case to the European Institutions and European employer organisations with whom we engage in a European social dialogue.