Irish Water to speed up transfer of council staff

Irish Water has been accused of scaremongering after it revealed plans to complete its takeover of all local authority staff working in water services four years earlier than intended.

The transfer of local authority workers to the utility was scheduled to happen by 2025, but Irish Water management now wants it substantially completed by 2021. It intends to work out the details of the takeover next year and commencing the process in 2019.

Around 1,000 jobs will be lost in the process, in addition to the 700 already shed, and while Irish Water says there will be no compulsory redundancies, union representatives say the existing arrangements should be honoured.

Niall Shanahan, spokesman for the Impact trade union, said it was awaiting a formal proposal from the company on talks about the changes.

“It’s very clear what our negotiating position will be,” he said. “We have agreements in place that we expect to be honoured and they go up to 2025. We feel there is a certain amount of scaremongering going on but we expect consultations will take place and we’ll be making our position clear.”

Irish Water has individual service-level agreements with all the local authorities setting out how they work in partnership with local authority staff to provide drinking water and wastewater services.

While Irish Water owns the infrastructure, local authorities are continuing to provide much of the manpower. Those agreements run to 2025, at which time it was intended those workers would become directly employed by Irish Water.

In the meantime, any vacancies arising from retirements or resignations among the local authority workers would not be filled. Irish Water said yesterday that that remained the plan and only the timeline had changed.

“In line with the business plan, the number of staff working in water services in Ireland has already been reduced from approximately 5,000 in 2014 to approximately 4,300 by the end of 2017 and this number will continue to see a gradual reduction over the coming four to five years to 3,300,” it said.

“Staff terms and conditions are protected by legislation, and the reduction in staff numbers will take place through mechanisms such as retirement and natural attrition. There will be no compulsory redundancies.

“Irish Water is working with local authority management, staff, unions and other key stakeholders to agree a framework to progress the transformation.”

Irish Water said the reduction in payroll would help towards a target saving in operating costs of €1.1bn between 2014 and 2021.

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