Siptu members employed in all of the country’s 34 council areas have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action, up to and including strike action, if the Department of Environment fails to adequately consult with them on the transition of assets and workers’ duties to the new body.
In April, the Government announced the establishment of Irish Water, and said it would be operated by Bord Gáis Éireann as an independent state-owned subsidiary and would remain in public ownership.
Now, over 90% of the workers balloted voted in favour of industrial action.
Siptu sector organiser, Michael Wall, said the massive vote in favour of industrial action reflected the feelings of members.
“In the event of any assets or workers’ duties, currently in local authority control, being transferred to any private contractor then strike notice will be served across the country.
“It is completely unacceptable that no assurances concerning future terms and conditions of employment have been given to workers who have provided a professional service to the Irish public for generations.
“We are seeking clear national negotiating structures, independent from existing mechanisms, which would deal with all matters surrounding the transition to Irish Water.”
He said he hoped the “resounding vote” in favour of industrial action would result in a more constructive approach by the department.
Full strike action would result in a full withdrawal of labour, Siptu organiser in Cork, Con Casey, said.
In Cork, workers are responsible for the operation and maintenance of all water supplies and sewerage schemes. The also operate the water treatment plant at Lee Rd, which treats and supplies clean drinking water to most of Cork City.
Siptu organiser, Ramon O’Reilly, said the transfer of assets and work in water services to an outside agency had taken place contrary to all assurances given previously by the department.
“No discussions have taken place, no forum for consultation has been established and no assurances concerning future terms and conditions of employment have been given to workers who have provided a professional service to the Irish public for generations.”
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the programme to install water meters in more than one million Irish households would be “90-95%” completed by the end of 2014.
Bord Gáis has said it will fully engage with the department and other bodies, including the local authorities, to explore all the issues around the implementation of Irish Water.