Irish Water is paying for its managers and staff to attend ‘resilience training’ classes to help boost their self-esteem and manage stress levels.
The Irish Examiner can reveal that workers involved in the company’s water metering programme began attending the courses in recent weeks.
Meter installers have been confronted by protest groups in housing estates across the county, with some being subjected to abuse. The company said the special training was for workers “coming up against difficult situations”.
The development comes as Taoiseach Enda Kenny responded to growing discontent over water charges with a stark warning that the top rate of income tax will be hiked by a crippling 4% if the new utility is abolished.
Mr Kenny claimed Irish Water will set out over the coming weeks how much people will pay and what they will get in return.
Meanwhile, the Fine Gael mayor of Drogheda, Kevin Callan, resigned in protest over the Government’s handling of the controversy.
More than 150,000 people attended protests on Saturday in towns and cities in opposition to the charge, due to start next January.
The Right2Water campaign said a clear message has been sent to the Government: “Water is a human right and we demand the abolition of domestic water charges.
“Today showed the strength of public opposition to water charges in communities up and down the country.
“The time has come for the Government to accept the will of the people, abolish domestic water charges and return to the drawing board. Until they do, the Right2Water campaign will keep up the pressure.”
A third day of action against the looming utility bills is being planned for Leinster House on December 10 — International Human Rights Day.
Only 800,000 of Ireland’s 2m homes have returned packs to Irish Water detailing their registration, which includes a requirement for a valid PPS number to guarantee the correct allowances are given. Failure to register will mean an automatic bill of €425 a year.
The new ‘resilience’ courses for Irish Water meter installers are to help them deal with anxiety and self-confidence issues as well as potential conflict situations with protestors.
A company spokeswoman said it had a “duty of care towards workers” to provide them with the training and that it included senior staff.
Irish Water employees last week were confronted in a Cork hotel by protesters as councillors were being briefed by senior managers.
Separately, the Irish Examiner can reveal that Irish Water will not have to contribute to policing costs at protests or where meters are being installed. Residents in estates up and down the country have been involved in stand-offs with workers and gardaí where meters are being installed.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said in a written parliamentary answer that the company “are not contributing financially towards the costs incurred by An Garda Síochána in policing protests in respect of the installation of water meters”.
The Coalition is facing a growing crisis over water charges, with calls for the levy to be dropped. A weekend poll showed a new low in support for the Coalition and that just two in five people could pay their water charges.
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