Unions win strong protection for water workers

No compulsory transfer to Irish Water as pay and pensions protected

Unions representing water workers have achieved robust measures to protect pay, pensions, working conditions and the right to remain in council employment after Irish Water becomes Ireland’s single national water authority from 1st January 2023.

The package of measures was hammered out in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in recent days. It gives local authority water workers a range of options to choose from as the phased transfer of responsibly for water services is implemented between next year and 2026.

The protections are codified in a new ‘Framework for Future Delivery of Water Services,’ which unions shaped in WRC talks that concluded yesterday (23rd June). It applies to all local authority water staff including general operatives, craft workers, and clerical, administrative and management grades.

The framework will ensure that:

  • There will be no compulsory transfers of staff to Irish Water
  • There will be no compulsory redundancies
  • Local authority water workers will have the option of transferring to Irish Water on a voluntary basis
  • Existing pay is protected, with the chance to earn more through individual or collective Irish Water performance rewards
  • Existing pension benefits are legally protected, with all local authority service taken into account for pension purposes
  • Other working conditions, including hours of work, annual leave, sick pay, allowances, overtime, and work location will also remain the same or be enhanced
  • Staff who transfer to Irish Water will receive a €3,000 incentive payment,
  • Local authority water workers can also opt to remain in local authority employment
  • There is a voluntary redundancy option for local authority water workers
  • Collective bargaining rights will remain in place.

The ICTU group of unions – which includes Connect, Fórsa, SIPTU and Unite – believes that the framework has achieved all the industrial relations (IR) objectives tabled by unions at the outset of the discussions. Vigorous discussions on the non-IR issues tabled by the unions are continuing. These include:

  • The union demand for a constitutional referendum to underpin public control of water services
  • Governance issues in the national water authority
  • The renewal of the local government sector, including additional investment.

The group of unions has produced a summary of the framework, in the form of ‘frequently asked questions’. And the full document is also available to members and executives of all the unions.

Read the summary from the ICTU group of unions HERE.

Read the full ‘Framework for Future Delivery of Water Services’ HERE.