independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Paul Melia: Price of industrial peace will be paid by the customer

Irish Water

HOUSEHOLDERS and businesses will ultimately end up paying the price for industrial peace in our local authority sector.

Agreements between Irish Water and the country's 34 local authorities to meet the costs of employing more than 4,000 staff, and paying the salaries of those deemed surplus to requirements, could end up hitting everyone in the pocket.

The Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are in place primarily because there is an enormous amount of experience in city and county councils needed to operate the water network. That invaluable experience has served the Irish public well, but that doesn't mean all will be needed in the future.

The heavy hand of government is all over the creation of this new utility company, and it's in danger of becoming the next HSE.

We know how that worked out. Merging local agencies into a more efficient national structure where compulsory redundancies are ruled out can only lead to disaster.

Irish Water and customers, can only hope that workers decide to retire or avail of whatever voluntary redundancy package is offered, because right now, it looks as if too many are employed and the customer will end up paying.

No one wants people to lose their jobs, but positions will have to go. Irish Water's purchasing of chemicals and supplies to treat water in one job lot means there'll be less work for people to do in local authorities. Having expert engineers and technicians covering regions means that some local posts will be surplus to requirements. Automated plants mean fewer technicians will be needed.

Had Irish Water been given a free hand in deciding how many staff it needed, where they needed to be located, and what services they would provide, it could be a very different type of agreement in place today.

Irish Independent

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