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The privatization of Italy’s water was rejected by 96 per cent of the voters – 25 million people – in a nationwide referendum that was held on June 12 and 13.

This result ends the law requiring mandatory concessions to privately-owned water companies, like basing costs on full recovery and guaranteeing investment returns of 7 per cent. The removal of these provisions means that the water privatization law is rolled back – an amazing victory following a decade long struggle by Italian water justice activists.

More than 57 per cent of Italians voted, easily meeting the 50 per cent target that makes these results binding on the Italian government.  Voters also rejected Prime Minister Berlusconi’s plan to restart their nuclear power plant program and voted to end immunity from trial for government ministers.

The vote was the result of years of campaigning by Italian public sector workers and many civil society organizations, with the support of Public Services International (PSI).  CUPE is a part of PSI, a global union of public workers in 148 countries.

Under the previous government, the campaign had worked to support a law that would have made water privatization illegal. When the current government came to power, the campaign was transformed into a demand for a referendum on Berlusconi’s law requiring privatization of water and other public services.

During the campaign, CUPE appealed to all Italian expatriates to vote against privatization of Italy’s water. The defense of public services such as water is a global issue, even though key struggles take place at the local, regional or national level.  The result of the Italian referendum will also strengthen the position of Canadian communities to keep water public.