Irish Water set to shed 1,500 jobs within six years

Irish Water set to shed 1,500 jobs within six years

Irish Water has confirmed plans to shed hundreds of jobs over the next six years.

The much-maligned utility company revealed the drastic plan would involve redundancies, retirements and redeployments as it targets saving €1.1bn by 2021.

Three hundred jobs have gone from the Irish Water pay roll since it first came into operation last year.

In its business plan the company outlined plans for major work to be carried out as it moves from operating in 34 local authorities to becoming a single state utility.

Among the strategies and investment targets Irish Water will spend about €5.5bn to eliminate the risk of drinking water contamination for 940,000 people and lift all boil water notices.

It has also committed to cutting waste from leaks in drinking water supplies from almost half of what’s in the system to 38% – saving 180 million litres a day – over the next six years.

On the problems of contaminated or poisoned supplies from old lead pipes, Irish Water said it will reduce the risks associated with it to 140,000 homes and another 40,000 homes on shared services.

Water from sewage treatment plans will no longer be discharged into the sea from 44 locations.

Multi-utility company Ervia’s chief executive Michael McNicholas said: “Our water and waste water services are not fit for purpose to meet the needs of a modern society and economy.

“Much of the infrastructure is old and poorly maintained. Half of our water never makes it to the tap, we discharge untreated sewage onto our beaches, nearly one million people’s water supply is at risk and we don’t have enough capacity for our capital to grow.

“The European Court of Justice is pursuing Ireland for multiple failures to address the discharge of raw sewage into our environment. This cannot continue.”

Amid the ongoing popular opposition to Irish Water and water charges with only about half of households paying for water, Mr McNicholas said the utility is the norm across Europe.

Less than half of people on public water supplies paid their first bill earlier this year but Irish Water is predicting that the refusal rate will come down with 54% expected to pay the second bill.

John Tierney, Irish Water managing director, said: “We are determined to deliver on these ambitious targets in order to provide our customers with the modern water and wastewater services that Ireland needs.”

Irish Water also highlighted some of its achievements to date including 20,000 people off boil water notices; spare drinking water capacity in Dublin has gone from 2% to 8%; nine new drinking water treatment plants and modern waste treatment plants in Clonakilty, Carrigtwohill, Clifden, Leixlip and Galway.

Michael McNicholas, CEO of Ervia, has outlined some of the company's priorities as it prepares to invest €5.5bn in Ireland's water infrastructure.

"We all know today that water services in Ireland are not where they need to be," he said.

"We've got 50% of our water lost through leakage, we've got raw sewage being pumped into our rivers and lakes, we've got people who have to boil their water.

"So over the next several years, we will invest that €5.5bn and we will eliminate all boil-water notices, we will address the risk to contamination to water services that supply almost a million people in our country today."

Trade union Impact said Irish Water's plan for massive job cuts raises concerns that it will privatise some of its work.

National secretary Peter Nolan said agreements are already in place with the Government including protection against compulsory lay-offs and it warned it would not rule out industrial action over the proposals.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that the announcement confirms his worst fears.

"First of all we're going to lose 1,500 jobs - very important to say these are the frontline jobs," he said.

"The consultants stay, the highly paid executives stay, the private companies to whom Irish Water are now outsourcing the work who have to make a profit - they all stay".

"But the frontline people who actually have knowledge and experience of the water infrastructure are going to be lost."

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