Wednesday, February 23, 2011


On Wednesday 2nd February, Tower Hamlets Council passed a motion, called “Bin Veolia”, which began the process of ending the Council’s business with Veolia and committing the council to “do everything in its power to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the pariah state of Israel”
• Veolia is a multinational company which provides infrastructure to local authorities including running transport services, water sanitation and energy.
• It is the leading recycling and waste management company in the UK.
• Veolia has a 5% stake in the building of the Jerusalem Light Railway.
• The tram will run through Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem as well as to Jewish neighbourhoods beyond the Green Line, such as Pisgat Zeev.
• There are having to be some demolitions in both East and West Jerusalem to build the line.
• In Oct 2010, Veolia agreed in principle to sell its 5% stake in the Consortium building the Jerusalem tramway to the Israeli company Egged Holdings.
• Additionally, Veolia provides other services in Israel, including waste management, which may include collecting rubbish from Israeli Settlements.
• Veolia is in the 6th year of an 11 year contract with Tower Hamlets Council.

Bin Veolia Campaign
• There is an international campaign to both boycott and divest from Veolia due to its investment in the Light Railway and its other work in Israel.
• The campaign has had successes in Sweden, Australia, France and Ireland
• The specific “Bin Veolia” branded campaign is run by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). It is relatively new; the anti-Veolia campaign had previously been pushed by Scottish PSC.
• PSC is currently promoting a ‘boycott Veolia campaign fortnight of actions in February’.

Veolia and UK councils
• Several UK councils, including Swansea City Council and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, have passed resolutions calling for a boycott of Veolia.
• Scottish PSC recently circulated a lengthy briefing to several councils, arguing for Veolia to be boycotted.
• In general, owing to EU and UK law, councils cannot boycott a country. They also can’t exclude specific companies from tenders unless they’ve “committed an act of grave misconduct”.

Tower Hamlets
• This is not the first time a motion to boycott Israel has been presented to Tower Hamlets Council.
• In 2009 a motion regarding support for the Palestinians in Gaza was passed. This requested the Council have no links with the ‘rogue Israeli regime’.
• The Council has also previously investigated Veolia and decided to uphold the contract.

• Harun Miah and Fozol Miah are Respect councillors of small wards.
• They are the only Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets.
• It was understood that they brought this motion to the table in an attempt to:
o create a stir
o increase their personal political profiles
o support the new independent mayor Lutfur Rahman, who was backed by Respect and defeated the official Labour candidate in October’s election
• Harun Miah seconded the boycott motion in 2009.

The Motion
• The motion refers to Israel as a ‘pariah state’.
• It was amended by a Liberal Democrat councillor to ‘review’ rather than ‘terminate’ contracts with Veolia.
• It carried , amended, by 11 votes to 7 of the 51-member council with the amendment.
• The votes against were from the Conservative group.
• The votes in favour were from eight Independent Mayoral-supporting councillors, two Respect members and the Council’s one Liberal Democrat.
• Labour, the largest group on the council, abstained. This is likely to have been a compromise position due to splits inside the Labour Group, which is divided between opponents and supporters of the Mayor.
• Implementation of the motion is to be investigated by a council official - Tower Hamlet Council’s Corporate Director for Communities, Localities and Culture.

Next Steps
• There are also likely to be similar motions at other local councils in the next few weeks. If you become aware of these, please let us know.
• The internal politics of Tower Hamlets Council is extremely delicate. Fair Play is working with allies in the Council to consider future actions.
• If you live or work in Tower Hamlets, please write to your local councillors to express your feelings about the motion and let us know about any responses.

Appendix 1: Tower Hamlets Motion as passed
Councillor Huarn Miah moved, and Councillor Fozol Miah seconded, the motion as printed in the agenda.
Councillor Stephanie Eaton moved, and Councillor Ohid Ahmed seconded, an amendment which was accepted by Councillor Harun Miah.
This Council notes that:
1) This Council has long term contracts with the multinational company Veolia
2) Veolia is deeply involved in contract work for the Israeli government which assist their continued oppression of the Palestinian people
3) In particular, Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory
4) Under the Public Contract Regulations (2006) a contracting local authority may exclude an economic contractor from bidding for a contract if the contractor has “committed an act of grave misconduct in the course of its business”

This Council believes that:
1) Veolia has clearly committed acts of grave misconduct in relation to the Palestinian people and the maintenance of illegal settlements and in other respects as well
2) There should be an urgent investigation by Council officers to confirm the charges of grave misconduct that have been levelled in the international campaign to “Bin Veolia”
3) The Council should do everything in its power to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the pariah state of Israel
4) Urgent steps should be taken to review all contracts with Veolia and not to place any further contracts with this company
5) The Mayor should write to Veolia as soon as possible to communicate to them the contents of this motion and the council’s determination to terminate any relationship to Veolia

By Fair Play Campaign Group: Bringing together those committed to opposing
anti-Zionist activity and boycotts that target the people and supporters of Israel.
The ZF is part of the executive of the FPCG.