Union branches quizzed on water future
by Bernard Harbor

Fόrsa has invited branches in its Local Government and Municipal Employees’ Divisions to study and make comments on plans to establish Irish Water as the sole water authority in Ireland. The rationale for the proposal was outlined in detail by the utility at a meeting convened by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) earlier this month.


Fόrsa has since sent a copy of the comprehensive presentation to branches.


The union agreed to enter WRC-facilitated talks on the proposal after consulting with the two Fόrsa divisions that represent local authority water workers. Under the plans unveiled this month, they would become employees of Irish Water.


Prior to entering the discussions, Fόrsa insisted that they could not have a pre-ordained outcome. Peter Nolan, the union’s senior official for municipal workers and local authority staff, also said that the engagement must yield “simultaneous movement” on four strands:

• The future sustainability and revitalisation of local authority services
• A constitutional referendum on public ownership of water services
• The structure and governance of the proposed single water utility, and
• Employment and industrial relations issues that arise from the proposal.

In its presentation at the WRC, management said service-level agreements (SLAs) between Irish Water and local authorities had “served us well,” but were no longer effective.


It argued that the single public utility model was the best of the available options. “We value and want to continue local service delivery. We want local authority staff to want to come to Irish Water and to be a part of building and delivering a national water service for Ireland,” they said.


Unions at the WRC meeting also warned that progress was required on plans to hold a constitutional referendum to keep water services in public control. They noted that a meeting of the Oireachtas committee on the matter had recently been deferred.

Fόrsa has previously said it will not ballot members on any proposal until there’s progress on the referendum.

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