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Richard Bruton says the government doesn't control Irish Water's bonus structure

Meanwhile, the company’s insisting that bonuses of up to 19 per cent of an employee’s pay are only given “in exceptional cases”.

Updated 12.20pm 

JOBS MINISTER RICHARD Bruton has said that the bonus structure at Irish Water is “not a matter determined by government” and insisted today that no bonuses have been paid or earned at the new semi-state utility.

Bruton was responding to continued controversy over water charges, bonuses and communication problems at Irish Water with details emerging yesterday of staff marked as “need improvement” being in line for bonuses.

Asked three times today if this is acceptable, Bruton declined to say whether it is or not, but stated several times: “No bonuses have been paid an in my view no bonuses have been earned.”

He added: “I am not going to get into the details of bonus structures because I don’t control those. Government does not set individual systems of pay models for any of these commercial state bodies.”

He said that Irish Water was going to take time and has ambitious targets for reducing costs and eliminating leaks which must be delivered on and for which the company must be accountable.

Yesterday, it emerged that staff at Irish Water and its parent company Ervia could earn annual bonuses of up to 19% as part of a reward scheme.

According to RTÉ’s This Week, the awards wouldn’t be limited solely to high performers, but to staff who are given a “need improvement” rating by their superiors.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was “appalled” at the details of the potential bonuses.

Board changes

Meanwhile changes to the management structure of Irish Water will take place in the next few weeks, a Fine Gael junior minister has said this morning.

The comments from Minister of State Damien English follow reports in yesterday’s newspapers that the government coalition is planning a major overhaul of the controversial semi-state company.

“My understanding is there’s going to be changes in November because the board’s time was up in July and it’s got an extension until November so there is going to be structural changes.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, English said he wasn’t close enough to the discussions to know what those changes would be, but he added…

We have a system here which is going to change so we will see how that pans out over the next couple of weeks.

The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that a planned shake-up of the structure of the company and some of its top brass was already well advanced.

The paper also reported Irish Water CEO John Tierney as insisting he was “going nowhere”.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Bruton said that “board structures” will be looked at tin the context of the merger between Bord Gáis and Irish Water into parent company Ervia.

“We will of course be looking at the board structures in the context of the potential merger of BGE and Irish Water into the new company that’s emerging. So there will be continious looking at those structures.

On the ongoing difficulties at Irish Water, the minister added: “The truth is there’s never been a new charge introduced in my lifetime in politics that we haven’t seen complaints about communication, implementation, roll-out and some of them are genuine mistakes made by a new entity and we have to get to grips with those mistakes.”

The company’s response… 

Commenting on yesterday’s revelations regarding the scheme, Irish Water said that the pay model at the company had been established to reinforce a performance-driven organisation culture “consistent with best practice for commercial utilities”.

According to a statement:

“Pay is externally benchmarked and includes salary and ‘at risk’ performance related awards (PRAs). PRA’s have not been paid to Irish Water employees to date.

“Total pay is benchmarked to the median of the market, but a percentage of salary is ‘at risk’ for each employee and full salary can only be achieved if performance targets are met.

In effect, this means salaries will reach the median of the market only if performance targets are met in full.

The company insists that a PRA “in excess of 15 per cent (to a max of 19 per cent) could only be achieved in exceptional cases and entirely at the discretion of the company”.

“Likewise the potential awards to a max of 9% and 4% for other pay ranges could only be achieved for exceptional performance and again entirely at the discretion of the company.

Some employees may earn smaller incentives even if their overall rating is ‘needs improvement’, reflecting that they may have met or exceeded expectations on many of their performance targets, but not all.

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

First posted at 9am.

Read: Still have questions about water charges? You might find the answers here>

Read: Taoiseach denies misleading the Dáil over Irish Water bonus claims>

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