The managing director of Irish Water has confirmed to IMPACT and other unions that its ‘service level agreements (SLAs) with local authorities will remain in place “until such time as an alternative is agreed,” and that no workers will lose their jobs if the company can negotiate agreement on its plans to phase out SLAs by 2021, rather than 2025.
The reassurances came in a letter to unions last Friday (17th November), after a national newspaper ran a story that Irish Water management said contained “a number of statements or inferences that are inaccurate.”
IMPACT was already aware that management hopes to move to a ‘single utility model,’ with no further involvement of local authorities. This was laid out a recent meeting of the Irish Water Consultative Group (IWCG), a management-union forum for dealing with industrial relations and related issues.
The company acknowledges that this would have to be done within an “agreed framework” and “over a number of years.” In his letter to unions, Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant said “negotiations in this regard have yet to commence.”
“No staff will lose their jobs in this process and local authority staff in local authorities have an absolute guarantee of no forced redundancies. The targets in the Irish Water business plan envisage that the total workforce in the sector will gradually be reduced through the transformation process by the order of 1,000 over a period of four to five years. Achieving this is subject to agreements to be negotiated,” he wrote.
IMPACT and other unions are opposed to the proposed new structure, which they say could threaten employment and increase the risk of privatisation in future years. IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan said: “The proposal of a unitary model is feeding the suspicion that both the Government and Ervia (Irish Water’s parent company) want to keep the option of future privatisation alive, despite political commitments that water will remain in public ownership.”
The unions are currently engaging with Government and other political parties on the issue.