Fórsa and other local authority unions participated in a series of meetings on the future of water services at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over the summer.
The discussions, centred on the Government’s proposal to bring all water services under a single national provider, also involved representatives of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Irish Water, and local authority employer bodies.
The sessions focused on a number of issues raised by Fórsa, including the need for the Government to hold a constitutional referendum to underpin public ownership and control of water services.
The unions also want assurances over future terms and conditions of water workers, and on the future of local government services. Fórsa has expressed fears that most local councils would become unviable if water services were removed from their control.
Management representatives agreed to provide further clarity on a number of issues at a reconvened meeting in the autumn.
Ahead of these meetings, Fórsa had insisted that there should be no forced ‘conscription’ of local authority staff into a national water provider – and also asked management to outline the conditions of employment that would be on offer to workers who agree transfer to a new authority.
The union wants to see a funded plan, with guaranteed staffing numbers, for the revitalisation of councils as the principal drivers of local social and economic development. The union has also sought guarantees that pay and conditions will be protected in any transfer, and that there will be no compulsory redundancies.
The union says local authority staff have growing fears that the proposal will be a stepping stone to water privatisation unless a referendum takes place first.
Engagement is currently ongoing and a follow-up meeting is in the process of being arranged by the WRC in the near future.
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