Ministers ‘standing over’ Irish Water bonuses

Ministers have been accused of standing over a bonus culture at Irish Water after welcoming pay boosts for workers at the utility.

Irish Water employees are to get backdated incremental payments averaging €1,500 following a ruling by the Labour Relations Commission.

The company refused to pay the incremental awards for 2013 and 2014 after a new performance-related scheme was branded a bonus culture by opposition parties.

The LRC ruling will see Irish Water employees receive automatic incremental payments until the end of next year before performance-related pay is restored in 2017.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said the ruling would spark public anger as it amounted to “benchmarking by the back door” as ministers stood over a renewed bonus culture.

As an intense political row erupted over proposed bonus payments to Irish Water workers last October, Labour Environment Minister Alan Kelly railed at the prospect, stating: “I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe it should happen.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton told the Dáil at the time: “I do not anticipate any bonus payment, any enhancement payment, or whatever other kind of management speak is used for the payments being paid”.

Ministers ‘standing over’ Irish Water bonuses

However, Ms Burton responded to the LRC ruling yesterday by denying it was embarrassing for the Government as she insisted it would “motivate” workers.

“I’m very satisfied that the performance pay structure that has been brought in makes a very strong business case for it and that it will motivate employees in the company to produce the kind of productivity and service that’s required of a major utility,” Ms Burton said.

Ms Creighton said the ruling meant Irish water workers would get rises “regardless of performance and productivity”.

“This LRC decision will spark real public anger. Irish Water is the greatest governmental blunder since the electronic voting machines of the Celtic Tiger era.

“It has lost the confidence of the citizens. Yet astonishingly those who have turned water investment into a national tragic-comedy now find that they are to be rewarded for their incompetence,” Ms Creighton said.

Ministers ‘standing over’ Irish Water bonuses

Barry Cowen

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen warned that ministers could not be trusted on Irish Water.

“Last year Minister Kelly went to great lengths to reassure the public that no bonuses would be paid to management staff at Irish Water in the event that the utility underperformed. To say that the utility has underperformed since then would be a significant understatement.

“It is clear that we simply cannot trust any reassurances or commitments made by Minister Kelly in relation to the running of Irish Water,” Mr Cowen said.

The bonus culture at Irish Water provoked fury when it emerged last October that staff could receive top-ups of up to 10% of their salaries, even if their performance was classified as needing improvement.

The first Irish Water controversy exploded in January 2014 when chief executive John Tierney admitted €50m was being spent on outside consultants. This figure ballooned to €85m by the end of last year.

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