The Local Government & Local Services and Municipal Employees’ divisions of IMPACT have commenced a ballot for industrial action at Irish Water, following the announcement by the water utility that it will shed 1,500 jobs as part of its business plan published in October.
Only members involved in the direct provision of services to Irish Water, including those who work in non-domestic water billing and water metering, are being balloted. However, IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan has said that the union will extend the ballot to other workers in the local authority sector if it becomes necessary.
In a letter to members Peter said that Irish Water’s proposals constitute clear breaches of understandings and agreements, negotiated by the union, that have facilitated the transfer of ownership, control and operation of water and sanitation services from local authorities to Irish Water.
Peter wrote that IMPACT and the group of ICTU group of unions (SIPTU, SIPTU/LAPO/, TEEU, UNITE and other craft unions) would not tolerate breaches of collective agreements (service level agreements and the Lansdowne Road Agreement) as a result of the unilateral position of Irish Water. Each of the unions will conduct their own ballot.
“The decision of both divisions to ballot members on a industrial action is a prudent precautionary step. Industrial action will not take place as long as Irish Water and the local authorities abide by these agreements” he said.
Peter explained that annual service plans to determine the appropriate staffing levels each year would continue to be negotiated. He said the union had engaged in these discussions in the first two years of operation, which had led to significant staffing reductions without any breach of existing agreements.
Peter said that while Irish Water maintains that the proposed job cuts will be achieved by improvements in services and efficiencies, the utility had not been able to identify where these efficiencies will arise. “IMPACT and the ICTU group of unions are opposed to any arrangement which will not provide the necessary staffing to allow a satisfactory service to be delivered to the Irish public.
“The union is acutely aware of those interests who wish to privatise water services in Ireland. Any agreements, which provide for staffing cuts without identifying where the efficiencies arise, will only play into the hands of those who wish to discredit public service provision. Equally, the union will not tolerate displacement of public service jobs, which amounts to privatisation by the back door” he said.
The ballot of members seeks support for industrial action, up to and including strike action, to:
- Ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement on annual service plans and to secure an agreed headcount for 2015
- Ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement on annual service plans for the years 2016-2026
- Ensure that vacant posts in the local authority water sector are filled as full-time permanent positions
- Ensure that vacancies arising in local authorities from transfer to water services are subsequently backfilled with permanent posts
- Ensure the protection of the conditions of employment of IMPACT members who work in non-domestic water billing and metering
The ballot will close at 12 noon on Friday 11th December, and a Frequently Asked Questions document is available to download here.