“Only one thing can stop any of this in its tracks: if you get angry and fight, fight like hell.”
That was the stirring message from Jane Carter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees when she shared the US union’s experience of privatisation with UNISON local government delegates this afternoon in Liverpool.
“They tell us that private companies can do it better, faster and cheaper,” she told conference: “We all know that’s a big fat lie.”
She reported that the US had a crumbling infrastructure – and private companies were looking at making $100bn from that alone.
And she quoted the chair of a major finance company specialising in privatising infrastructure, who told a 2008 conference on public-private partnerships: “Desperate government is our best customer. There will be a lot of desperate governments out there.”
She also gave the example of Chicago, which had sold its parking meters to a private company on a 75-year lease, which will run until 2084, for $1.2bn.
The price of parking has now gone from $1 for two hours to $8 for two hours and the company has nearly made back the money it paid, meaning that from now to 2084, everything will be pure profit.
Or again, there was the case of the Correctional Corporation of America, which runs private prisons and wrote to all but two state governors offering to buy their prisons.
And in return for the immediate cash flow states would get, all they asked was a guarantee that the prisons would be kept at least 90% full.
It’s not about being faster, cheaper or better, said Ms Carter. “It’s all about profit.
“Privatisation is a loss of control of tax dollars and public assets to private companies.”