Meter firm lays off 35 installers as work is halted
MORE than 35 water meter installers were laid off last night as works continue to stall due to water protests.
GMC Sierra Limited, one of four major regional contractors installing meters on behalf of Irish Water, is also set to place more staff on protective notice.
The company has been contracted to install some 110,000 water meters in the Dublin city region.
It has installed around 55,000 so far at a rate of approximately 1,000 a week and relies extensively on sub contractors to carry out the work.
However, the company has complained in a series of court proceedings that their work has been obstructed by the alleged harassment, intimidation and assault of workers at certain sites as well as inadequate policing support for workers.
The installation of water meters have now drawn to a virtual halt in areas such as Donaghmede, Edenmore, Coolock, Crumlin and Rialto.
When contacted by the Irish Independent on the lay-offs Irish Water said it "cannot comment on the specifics of its contracts with third parties for reasons of confidentiality".
"Our requirement is for contractors to deliver the metering programme to time and budget requirements.
"How GMC Sierra manages its contractual obligations in relation to meter installations is a matter for GMCS itself".
Last November a garda Chief Superintendent told the High Court that locations where water meters were being installed were not public areas for the purpose of the Public Order Act, leaving gardaí with a difficulty when it came to policing protests.
The layoffs come as the High Court has reserved judgment on whether seven water protesters should be fined or jailed for what GMC claims is a breach of court orders.
Yesterday Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, who was flanked by plain clothes detectives and a strong presence of gardaí and prison officers, reserved judgment until Thursday morning.
The court heard of several incidents including one where it is claimed an "irate" woman protester punched a water meter installer in the torso.
In an affidavit, Charles Rice, of First Pulse security, recalled how he witnessed a protester "deconstruct the work stations".
He also witnessed workers being pushed and shoved.
Separately, the Taxing Master of the High court is due to rule in March whether individual protesters should face legal fees of up to €25,000 each for previous breaches of court orders.
Last November the High Court granted an order to GMC Sierra Ltd, establishing the 20-metre exclusion zone around locations where its workers were installing meters in Dublin City. GMC had already secured injunctions preventing a number of individuals or anyone who had notice of court orders from assaulting, intimidating or interfering with workers installing the meters.
Yesterday Judge Gilligan reserved judgment in the case of seven water charge protesters facing jail or a fine if found to be found in contempt of court regarding the obstruction of water meter installation.
The court was told that the seven Dubliners had previously been ordered not to go within 20 metres of contractors installing water meters and not to interfere with the entrance and exit of the company's vehicles.
They are Damien O'Neill of Greenwood Park in Coolock; Paul Moore of Mount Olive Grove in Kilbarrack; Bernie Hughes of McKelvey Avenue, Finglas; Mark Egan of Tonlegee Drive, Raheny; Richard Larkin of Mount Olive Road, Kilbarrack; Michael Batty of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny; and Derek Byrne of Streamville Road, Donaghmede.
All were in court apart from Mr Batty who, the court was told, needed to be in a dry and sunny climate due to chronic asthma.
Last night, government sources expressed concern over the layoffs and admitted that they have become aware of "difficulties" in a number of pockets in the city.