Union expects dispute over plan to transfer staff to Irish Water

Government wants to move relevant staff from councils to water utility firm by 2021

The State’s largest public service trade union has said it will surprised if there is not a dispute over the Government’s plans to transfer staff from local authorities to Irish Water.

The Government wants to transfer relevant staff from councils to the utility firm by 2021, which is four years before a current service level agreement between Irish Water and the councils is due to expire.

Delegates at Forsa’s local government conference in Kilkenny on Thursday backed a series of motions calling for the defence of the terms and conditions of members who currently provide water services in local authorities and for a referendum to ensure water services remain in public ownership.

Peter Nolan, the union’s national secretary, said it had emerged from various meetings that the 3,000 local authority personnel involved in water services believed they were under threat from the Government proposals.


He said the union’s “big fight” was likely to centre on “ensuring the future of local government was preserved when they take away 25 to 30 per cent of its funding stream” which comes from payments for water.


Mr Nolan said that in the agreement to go into talks with the Government on its transformation plans for Irish Water there was an assurance that “there would be no compulsory conscription of local authority workers to any single [water] entity”.

However, he said the union believed that all 30,000 employees in local authorities were vulnerable either from the impact of the Government proposals on direct employment or from the impact on the finances of local councils.

Mr Nolan said the union had campaigned strongly against the establishment of Irish Water in the first place in 2010. Forsa would “not stand for water being privatised”.

Gary Smith, a Forsa delegate from Mayo, said that “this [mess] was not caused by us, we warned against it, and we will not be victims of it”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

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