A scheduled strike by about 3,000 water workers over the terms on which they could remain with their local authorities rather than transfer to Uisce Éireann has been averted.
The breakthrough came after Minister for Local Government Darragh O’Brien provided assurances in a letter on Friday that their take-home pay would be protected.
The dispute centred on a perception by the workers involved that the Local Government Management Association was not entirely standing over similar assurances contained in a framework document drawn up to serve as basis on which employees in the sector would be treated during the transfer of services to the newly independent water body.
In a ballot of Siptu members last month, the affected workers voted by a margin of about nine to one to take industrial action. There was an expectation that the two-day strike, due to start on Wednesday and to be followed by ongoing industrial action, would cause widespread disruption to services and might result in boil-water notices being issued.
Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission between management and the union side aimed at resolving the dispute had been scheduled for Tuesday after an intervention by Mr O’Brien, but Siptu had refused to suspend the strike in advance of the meeting.
In his letter on Friday to Siptu divisional organiser Karan O’Loughlin, however, Mr O’Brien acknowledged the concerns of the union with regard to the undertakings given concerning a variety of allowances currently received by water workers and said these would all be retained.
“Given that there will be no loss of earnings by any worker,” he said, “I am requesting that the industrial action be withdrawn”. He requested that the union move quickly on the issue given the uncertainty involved.
Siptu confirmed on Friday evening that it was calling the strike off. Ms O’Loughlin said she was extremely happy with the way the dispute had been resolved.
“The letter confirms that the regular and rostered overtime as well as the allowances received by the workers will be retained. That’s what the strike was about, so this is really good,” she said.
The Minister had, she said, given “concrete examples of how the earnings of our members will be protected and removes an attempt by individual local authorities to renege on this commitment”.