Irish Water pay rises: Utility struggles for survival

IRISH WATER must be the most accident-prone institution ever established here. Since its inception, it has been the subject of impassioned debate and trenchant criticism — not without reason.

In the latest scandal, Irish Water employees are to receive backdated pay rises of up to 3% under a ruling issued yesterday by the Labour Relations Commission. This has come about because management abandoned the performance pay structure originally agreed with staff.

Irish Water has managed to infuriate a sizeable proportion of the electorate with its metering programme, ignoring genuine concerns while giving ammunition to a variety of political forces that seek its abolition. It now has enraged staff by reneging on a contract.

Whether that deal should have been done in the first place is moot at this point. What matters is that Irish Water seems unable to function at any level and serious consideration must now be given to replacing it.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly claims its abolition would cost about €1bn, a figure disputed by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who put the cost closer to €173m.

Whatever the figure, such is the toxic nature of the institution that it is difficult to imagine how it will survive considering that we face a general election in the next nine months.

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