The Government’s proposed transfer of 3,500 local authority staff to the Irish Water utility will almost inevitably trigger industrial action, according to the country’s largest public service union, Fórsa.
The warning comes as the Government is seeking to accelerate the amalgamation within the next 18 months. Water services are currently delivered for Irish Water by local authority water services personnel operating under 31 Service Level Agreements due to continue until 2025.
However, the Government wants to streamline services by transferring the local authority workers to the single water utility by next year – a move which unions have so far resisted. Employees fear that they would lose their public service status, terms and conditions and security of employment and are seeking guarantees that pay and conditions would be protected in any transfer, with no compulsory redundancies. Unions are also demanding a referendum to underpin public ownership and control of Irish Water, as local authority staff fear the amalgamation within a single utility will be a “stepping stone” to water privatisation unless a referendum takes place first.
Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission have so far failed to secure a compromise on the staffing issue.