Monday 27 March 2017

Siptu calls for utility to guarantee staff's jobs as six other unions want company abolished

Mary Lou McDonald speaking at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald speaking at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh and Barry Lennon

Siptu has called on Irish Water to guarantee its workforce's jobs while six unions called for the commercial semi-state company to be abolished as soon as the Dáil resumes.

In a letter to the chief executive of its parent company, Ervia, the union said it would oppose any forced redundancies and called upon the company to guarantee its staff's terms and conditions.

But six unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign against water charges have called for the immediate abolition of Irish Water when the Dáil meets on March 10.

The Civil, Public and Services Union, representing more than 13,000 lower paid civil servants, the Communications Workers' Union, retail union Mandate, the Operative Plasterers and Allied Trades Society of Ireland (OPATSI), the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) and Unite also want a referendum to ensure ownership of the water supply remains in public hands.

Secretary of the Irish Water Group of Unions, Adrian Kane, said the other unions' stance was "not particularly helpful" but said he "didn't want to get into that".

"The water charge has been a deeply unpopular charge and I can understand where those people are coming from," he said.

"At the end of the day, we are all representing workers, and even those in Right2Water would have concerns about the future of Irish Water workers as well."

Mr Kane is head of a group of unions representing the workforce of 550 directly-employed staff.

The TEEU and Unite also represent staff working there, but want an end to the commercial semi-state utility.

Mr Kane said Siptu, which represents 250 of the staff, wanted a "democratically accountable" authority, rather than a commercial semi-state. It also wants guarantees that its members' terms and conditions will remain as they are.

"Our concern is that the Fianna Fáil manifesto talks about a slimmed down Irish Water, similar to the NRA. It doesn't say it is going to scrap it. I don't know what its position is. I can tell you, people working for Irish Water don't know if they're coming or going in terms of whether they have a job, or who they will be working for."

Mandate general secretary John Douglas said Siptu "has genuine concerns about its members, and those concerns have to be met, but the quicker Irish Water is put out of its misery the better".

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald led a protest outside Leinster House calling for the abolition of water charges yesterday

Sinn Féin said if the charges were abolished, the "money was not there" to give families a refund. And the deputy leader said the public had given a clear demand for water charges to be abolished.

Irish Independent

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