Minister Darragh O’Brien TD.

Union reacts to Irish Water’s future

One of the largest trade unions has told the Government that it will not be forced into Irish Water.

SIPTU representatives explained that union members will not accept any attempt to “force the transfer from their employment with local authorities to Irish Water,” during a meeting on Tuesday with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien.

That was the Union’s opinion after the Cabinet approved a policy paper on Tuesday, called 'Irish Water – Towards a national, publicly-owned, regulated, water services utility'.

The Housing Minister said the Government’s expectations are that Irish Water will separate from the Ervia Group during 2023, and that Irish Water “will integrate the day to day operation and delivery of water services into its own organisational structure, in place of the current Service Level Agreements, on a phased basis”.

The Government also expects that “in preparation for such integration of services under Irish Water, the engagement process taking place under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission to identify a stable operational framework for the future delivery of water services should be concluded by July 2021”.

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane said: “At the meeting, we informed the Minister that SIPTU members will not accept any imposed solution on the future provision of water services nor will we accept a situation whereby staff of local authorities are forcibly transferred to Irish Water.

“We emphasised that any proposed changes can only be achieved by agreement and that any deviation from the normal rules of engagement will result in industrial action."

Minister O’Brien said: “We want Irish Water to become the workplace of choice for those local authority staff right across the country who are currently delivering water services on behalf of Irish Water. We acknowledge workers’ loyalty to their local authority and to their status as public service workers as well as their commitment to local service delivery.

“I am therefore asking that, through the aegis of the Workplace Relations Commission, management from Irish Water and the Local Government sector sit down with trade unions to develop a solution which allows us to move ahead with that world class public utility while respecting the concerns of local authority staff.

“The Government is determined to ensure that the views and concerns of key stakeholders must be considered and addressed within the transformation process. To all concerned I want to say that we as a Government firmly respect your positions and views and want to give you the strongest possible say in deciding your own future working arrangements.”