Unions oppose Irish Water plans

waterProposed new governance structures would effectively bring local authority water staff under the wing of a unitary state agency

IMPACT and other unions in the water sector are to engage with Government and political parties on the future of water services, amid fears that proposed new governance structures could threaten employment and increase the risk of privatisation over the coming years. The decision, by the ICTU group of unions, came after Irish Water confirmed that it wanted to create a single water agency – and employer – once current ‘service level agreements’ with local authorities expire.

Although Irish Water’s parent company Ervia has informed the minister of its position, the Government has not yet taken a position on the proposal, which would effectively bring local authority water staff under the wing of a unitary state agency.

In a letter to IMPACT members issued this week, the union’s national secretary Peter Nolan said: “all the unions are clear that there is no appetite among local authority workers for a change to their current employment relationship. This position will be emphatically presented to all the political parties inside and outside of government.”

Irish Water has said it will continue to honour existing service level agreements. But it wants to enter discussions with unions on the matter.

The wider group of unions – which includes Siptu, the TEEU, Unite and Lapo – also endorsed IMPACT’s view that the proposal would create more anxiety over future public control of water and sewage services. Last month the union issued a statement calling on the Government to name a date for a referendum on public control of water.

“The proposal of a unitary model is bound to feed the suspicion that both the Government and Ervia want to keep the option of future privatisation alive, despite political commitments that they will remain in public ownership. This underpins the need for a referendum, which would support the quality and affordability of water services into the future.” said Peter.