Irish Water rejects claim of secret deal to fill vacancies

Irish Water and Department of the Environment say staff numbers at utility have fallen from 4,300 to 3,900

Department of the Environment in a statement said the description of the meetings of the Irish Water Consultative Group as ‘secret’ was ‘utter nonsense’.

Department of the Environment in a statement said the description of the meetings of the Irish Water Consultative Group as ‘secret’ was ‘utter nonsense’.

 

Irish Water and the Department of the Environment have rejected a claim there was a secret deal to fill vacancies among the 4,300 staff at the new State-owned utility.

A newspaper report contended that an agreement to fill vacancies as they arose by the Irish Water Consultative Group cast serious doubts on Irish Water’s ability to reduce staff numbers. This is a necessary part of its commitment to lower operating costs by 7 per cent in 2014. The consultative group is made up of unions, management and representatives from the department and from local authorities.

But the utility and its sponsoring department both rejected the premise of the article in the strongest terms.

Irish Water said that assertion by the newspaper of no reduction in staff numbers due to automatic filling of vacancies was “incorrect and flies in the face of the known facts”.

The Department of the Environment, in an equally hard-hitting statement, said the description of the meetings of the Irish Water Consultative Group as “secret” was “utter nonsense”.

“It is well known that staff representatives will meet management to discuss the impact of staffing changes. This is standard management practice across the public and private sector and consultation with staff is a basic prerequisite of managing change effectively,” said a department spokesman, adding that the key documents were available on its website for some time.

Reduction

Elizabeth Arnett

The company said it demonstrated that the agreements made with local authorities were delivering the changes required.

“Between now and the end of 2016 Irish Water will reduce its operating costs by 14 per cent. Seven per cent of this reduction will take place in 2015, with a further 7 per cent in 2016. By 2021, Irish Water will have reduced expenditure by approximately €1.1 billion. This will involve reductions in all business costs including staff numbers.”

Justification

The spokesman instanced a specialist at a treatment plan with specific expertise. “To not fill these vacancies would result in disruption to drinking water services or poor management of sewage treatment,” he said.

No figures have been made available on how many of those essential vacancies were filled. While Irish Water achieved its staff reduction plan for 2014, it needs further large staff reductions during 2015 and 2016 if it is to meet its cumulative target of 14 per cent lower costs.

The minutes from the consultative group meeting stating that vacancies were to be filled were obtained by Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton. She told The Sunday Business Post that it meant that Irish Water would “continue to be overstaffed for the foreseeable future”.