Popular referendum concludes that 97% are against privatizing public services in São Paulo

Almost 900,000 people voted in the referendum organized by unions and people’s movements

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP) |
In the state of São Paulo, most of the voters said “no” to privatization. - Divulgação/Sintaema

A referendum found that most of the population of São Paulo state is against the proposals for privatizing the public services in the state governed by Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans Party), a Bolsonaro supporter. The popular referendum organized by unions and people’s movements concluded that 97% of the votes were against transferring the administration of trains, metros and the Basic Sanitation Company of the State of São Paulo (Sabesp, in Portuguese) to he private sector.

The referendum result was presented last week (16) when the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo (Alesp, in Portuguese) held a hearing to discuss the possibility of privatizing Sabesp. According to the organizers, the referendum recorded 897,000 votes.

The ballot boxes were distributed at points of large circulation of people, such as public transport stations. It took about two months of mobilization. In addition to the votes, participants in the referendum joined together in a petition against privatization. The intention is to send the petition to the authorities.

The popular referendum was part of a campaign to mobilize representatives of workers from Sabesp, Metro and São Paulo Metropolitan Train Company (CPTM, in Portuguese), which, on October 3, organized a joint strike against the privatization process. Another strike, with the participation of other workers’ categories, will take place next week, on November 28.

Mobilization and hearing

The workers’ mobilization is supported by different sectors of society, different representatives of professional categories and parliamentarians. Last week, before beginning the public hearing at Alesp, a protest gathered many people.

“We have a government that hates public service and public servants, and wants to make Sabesp a new Enel,” said state deputy Guilherme Cortez (Socialism and Freedom Party), referring to the recent energy supply crisis in São Paulo, a state where electric energy is administered by a private company.

"The private sector is not capable of serving the public interest. If a private company has to choose between increasing the value of the bill or offering a better-quality service, it will choose its profit - and the population will be charged," the deputy added.

“They want to privatize Sabesp because they don’t like people, the poor and workers,” said Vívia Martins, a member of the Unified Workers’ Central-São Paulo state. “Any and all demonstrations against this privatization: we will be together in this fight. It is unacceptable to privatize water, which is everyone's goods,” she added.

At the public hearing, São Paulo’s government was represented by Natália Resende, the secretary of Environment, Infrastructure and Logistics, who tried to argue that any privatization of Sabesp will have different characteristics than those of the electricity services.

“In general, the problems are the same. Rates increase, services worsen, investments are not made and public authorities lose social control. There are many cases around the world of decrease in quality and losses when talking about privatization,” said José Faggian, the president of the Union of Water, Sewage and Environmental Workers of the State of São Paulo (Sintaema, in Portuguese).

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho