Call for water workers dispute to be referred to WRC rejected by union

Workers argue that they would lose allowances currently received for being on call under new agreement

A call by the chief executive of the Local Government Management Association for next week’s two-day strike by local authority water workers to be deferred and the dispute referred to the Workplace Relations Commission has been rejected by one of the three unions involved.

Around 3,000 workers are due to take strike action on Wednesday and Thursday over the implementation of an agreement relating to the transfer of services to the newly established independent body Uisce Éireann.

Management has given commitments that those workers who opt to remain with their local authority and are redeployed will not be any worse off financially. Workers argue that they would effectively lose allowances currently received for being on call with Siptu putting the cost to those affected at between €280 and €150 per week.

In a letter to senior union officials, seen by The Irish Times, Paul Dunne said the industrial action will “significantly impact on all citizens and will have a potential detrimental effect on the delivery of key services, including health services”. He said fact the timing of the strike coincides with the start of State exams is also “regretful”


He said both the current public sector national pay agreement, Building Momentum, and the document, implementation of which is at the heart of this dispute, the Framework for the Future Delivery of Water Services, contained sections setting out mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.

In the case of the framework document it requires both parties to seek the intervention of the WRC.

“We would therefore request that the union side consider the serious implications arising from proceeding with the proposed industrial action with a view to addressing the issues through the established industrial relations channels.”

In response, Siptu said it was available for talks without any preconditions but the dispute had nothing to do with the national pay agreement

The union’s Division organiser, Karan Ó Loughlin, said those due to strike were having “to go on strike to achieve what has already been agreed”.

Earlier, Ms Ó Loughlin, criticised the lack of action by local authorities to prepare members of the public for the impact of the water workers dispute and a separate one, involving retained firefighters, that is due to start on Tuesday.

“The lack of preparation by the local authorities for this dispute is shocking and irresponsible. Our members in the retained fire service and in water services are reporting that, in most counties, management has no specific contingency plans in place and are not undertaking any public information campaigns.

“Local authorities have a responsibility to advise the public that there will be disruption to the fire and water services but have not done so. The two-day strike in the water services will mean that boil water notices may be necessary and that, in some areas, business and domestic users may have no water for periods of time,” she said.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times