Industrial action ‘almost inevitable’ over plans to move council staff to Irish Water

Trade union Fórsa says ‘forced coercion’ of employees out of local authorities will be fought

Industrial action is almost inevitable in the months ahead over Government plans to transfer about 3,500 staff from local authorities to Irish Water, a trade union has warned.

Fórsa suggested it was now only a question of when the action would take place and that it would “not allow any forced coercion of (water service) staff out of local authorities”.

It said there was a “huge gap” between Government plans regarding Irish Water and the protections workers were seeking.

Speaking ahead of Fórsa's local government conference on Wednesday, the union's national secretary Peter Nolan said it was "almost impossible" to see how the gap between the parties could be closed.

He maintained that engagement between unions, the Government, Irish Water and councils had been “weakened to the point of incapacity”.

Fórsa said the Government originally outlined plans to bring local authority workers under the control of Irish Water in 2017.

It said local authorities currently provided water services to Irish Water on the basis of service level agreements which run until 2025. However, it said the Government wanted to scrap these arrangements and move to a single water authority this year.

Fórsa said that local authority staff will not agree to any transfer to Irish Water in the absence of a referendum to underpin public ownership and control of the utility.

The union said local authority staff had growing fears that the proposal “will be a stepping stone to water privatisation unless a referendum takes place first”.

“Fórsa also fears that most local councils would become unviable if water services were removed from their control. “

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent