Ontario teachers: Call on your pension plan to stop facilitating for profit water services in Chile
Ontario teachers have a long history of defending public services. As a teacher, you know that for-profit private services deny socio-economically disadvantaged people of their rights to quality essential services. Why then is your pension plan – the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) – investing in private water and sanitation services in Chile?
In 2007, the OTPP began investing through its Chilean Unit, Inversiones OTPPB Chile II Limitada, in Chilean water and sanitation services. In 2011, it increased its shares and is now the majority shareholder in three major Chilean utilities making it the largest investor in Chilean private water and sanitation services.
Around the world there is growing evidence that private water utilities maximize profit by shutting off those who cannot afford to pay, challenging or failing to meet environmental and public interest regulations, and refusing to operate in a transparent and accountable manner. Women, poor people and other marginalized communities are most deeply impacted.
In Chile, the situation is made worse by extreme weather patterns caused by decades of environmental abuse and deregulation brought in during the Pinochet era. Chile is facing the impacts of drought, desertification and floods caused by melting glaciers. The appalling profit-maximizing behaviour of OTPP-run utilities during this period of crisis has left hundreds of thousands of people without access to their water supply.
Currently two of the utilities, ESSBIO and ESVAL, are under investigation by Chilean authorities for these mass shut-offs.
ESVAL is also under investigation for providing water that did not meet drinking water safety standards to more than 30 million people in the region of Valparaiso.
In addition, local farmers are challenging ESVAL in the Petorca region, arguing they have insufficient water for their crops because the company is accessing more than its share of freshwater during periods of drought from dubious sources.
The third company, Aguas de Valle is facing a class action lawsuit for a series of illegal actions infringing on the human rights to water and sanitation including unscheduled cut offs, billing irregularities, poor water quality and failure to comply with compensatory measures.
This bad corporate behavior is systemic and demonstrates the need for strong public water and sanitation services through which governments can fulfill human rights obligations even during periods of crisis. The recognition of the importance of public services is increasing – 236 communities around the world have taken water back into public hands in the last decade.
There is a growing movement in Chile to renationalize the services that were drastically privatized during the country’s military dictatorship of the 70s and 80s. As the biggest investors in Chilean water, Ontario teachers can play a part.