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Talks to resume next month on transfer of local authority staff to Irish Water

Discussions took place during the summer and they are set to resume again in mid-October.

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THERE WILL BE further discussions next month on the government’s plan to bring all water services in Ireland under one national provider.

Under this plan, around 3,200 water service workers employed by local authorities will be transferred to work for Irish Water.

Irish Water oversees the planning and delivery of all public water and wastewater services across the country through service level agreements (SLAs) with local authorities.

A previous deadline of July this year had been set by the government to identify a framework for the plan to transfer the workers still employed by these local authorities.

However, discussions are still ongoing and will recommence in mid-October, the Department of Housing said. 

The department, unions, Irish Water and local authority employer bodies held discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) regarding the future of water services during the summer. 

A policy paper released by the government earlier this year outlined its plans to bring Irish Water towards becoming a national service. 

The paper said a national approach to water services is “more sustainable” and allows it to operate as a “unified whole”, rather than a “diffuse set” of services. 

All water treatment plants across the country will be audited by Irish Water after serious incidents were reported at two plants. 

At least 52 illnesses were confirmed as a result of the incidents at plants in Ballymore Eustace, which supplies drinking water to parts of Dublin city, and in Creagh, which serves Gorey in Co Wexford.

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to investigate areas impacted by poor water supply.

Workers

In a news bulletin to union members issued on 3 September, Fórsa trade union said it has sought reassurances over the future terms and conditions of water workers, and on the future of local government services.

The union said it has asked management to detail employment terms for workers who agree to transfer to a new employer. 

Fórsa also said it is seeking a funded plan to revitalise councils as “principal drivers of local social and economic development”, with guaranteed staffing numbers in place. 

“The union has also sought guarantees that pay and conditions will be protected in any transfer, and that there will be no compulsory redundancies,” the members’ bulletin said. 

Fórsa previously released a statement in mid-June saying unions had reached a “vital breakthrough” in discussions regarding government proposals for water services. 

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Employers accepted a WRC proposal recognising that unions would not recommend or support any outcome that would involve the coerced transfer of local authority staff to the water services utility.  

Public ownership

The Programme for Government said that the government will keep Irish Water in public ownership. 

In written response to TD Holly Cairns in May, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said Irish Water is moving towards becoming a single national water entity. 

“This has been a complex and challenging process for key stakeholders, notably the workers, who include approximately 3,200 local authority water services staff who are subject to service level agreement arrangements with Irish Water as well as a smaller number of staff employed directly by Irish Water and Ervia, together with their trade union representatives, the local government sector, and Ervia/Irish Water,” the minister said. 

A statement from the Department of Housing said engagement at the WRC is “ongoing and is timed to resume in mid-October 2021″. 

A statement from Irish Water said the “engagement by all sides was constructive” at the previous WRC discussions. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Enterprise said the WRC “does not comment on individual cases”. 

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