Irish Water plan to shed 1200 jobs raises questions about operational capacity

Peter Nolan, national secretary, IMPACT
Peter Nolan, national secretary, IMPACT

IMPACT trade union, which represents local authority staff providing services to Irish Water, has said that the Irish Water business plan, which was published this morning (Wednesday 7th October), raises a number of questions as to how the national water utility can continue to operate following the elimination of 1200 posts over the next five years.

IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan said that the plan does not indicate how Irish Water proposes to maintain its operational capacity following the shedding of a significant amount of the workforce, and rejected claims that the utility is overstaffed.

Mr Nolan said “What is not yet clear is how Irish Water will continue to meet the demand to provide a service, including the continuing upgrading and integration of the water network. The absence of information raises concerns that it would look to outsource or privatise some elements of its operation in order to boost its capacity.

He said that the key issue for staff and for the union is that the workforce arrangements would be managed through existing service level agreements, as well as the protections against compulsory redundancy contained in the Lansdowne Road agreement.

Mr Nolan added that existing service level agreements require that staffing levels have to be agreed each year, and that there are now 356 fewer staff working under the service level agreements than two years ago. “We have worked closely with the employer to ensure that the skill and expertise of local authority staff would be fully utilised under these agreements, in order to meet the substantial challenge of integrating and upgrading a national water network.

“Over the lifetime of these agreements it is envisaged that the number of staff required would be reduced, but this latest plan seeks to arbitrarily reduce the number without considering the operational issues that are likely to emerge.

“We do not see how the proposed level of staff reductions can be achieved within existing agreements. We will engage with the employer but we cannot rule out industrial action if agreement can’t be reached,” he said.