Friday 18 October 2019

Irish Water to pay €9,000 bonus to staff 'in need of improvement'

Coalition TDs fear water fiasco could cost next election

John Tierney of Irish Water
John Tierney of Irish Water
John Downing

John Downing

Senior managers at Irish Water are in line for bonuses of 9pc - almost €9,000 per year - even if they get an assessment rating which says they "need improvement".

Further details of the controversial bonus system for Irish Water and its parent company Bord Gais came to light as pressure intensified for changes in the board and senior management of Irish Water.

It emerged that staff who get a "need improvement" rating in their annual performance review can still claim hefty bonuses. These rise as high as 19pc of salary for those who "far exceed" expectations.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said there was little that could be done to stop the payments.

But the mood within both Fine Gael and Labour is increasingly angry, as TDs believe serial public relations disasters at Irish Water could cost them the next election.

The former minister who was in charge of setting up of Irish Water, Fergus O'Dowd, warned "fundamental changes" were needed and "bonuses must go".

Several senior ministers notably failed to endorse Irish Water top management and well-placed sources spoke about "the need for radical changes" at the company.

Pay scheme details at the companies at Irish Water and its parent Bord Gais, which is being rebranded as Ervia, emerged on RTE radio's This Week programme.

The top bonus available to senior managers on salaries above €90,000 who "far exceed expectations" is 19pc, while middle-ranking staff on about €70,000 would qualify for 9pc and clerical grades would get 4pc.

Next in line are those who "consistently exceed expectations", where the rate varies from 3.5pc up to 17pc.

But the principle of an extra payment is not confined to high achievers - as the "needs improvement" rating attracts a 9pc bonus for higher management, a 4pc top-up for middle staff on about €70,000 a year and 1.5pc for clerical grades.

This means that senior management on more than €90,000 would still get 9pc of their salary or about €9,000 in extra payment even if they are adjudged to need improvement.

The only ones who do not qualify for extra money are those who are rated under "does not achieve expectations".

Mr O'Dowd was highly critical of the bonus "culture" as he warned the "public won't accept" it.

Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen blasted Irish Water as a "gold-plated, bonus-driven, super quango".

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton notably failed to express confidence in Irish Water, saying every board was under continual scrutiny and no minister could "give carte blanche".

But he held out little hope of government intervention to block bonuses - as he said commercial state companies must have freedom to set pay systems.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said there were "real and serious issues" about Irish Water structures.

Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris said the Irish Water board may be restructured next month.

Elsewhere, the full extent of government backbench anger became apparent as Fine Gael's Eoghan Murphy said reforms were needed.

Over the weekend, Irish Water managing director John Tierney let it be known that he was continuing in office.

Irish Water directed queries about pay to the parent company Bord Gais, renamed Ervia, who confirmed that it operated an "at-risk-pay-model" which allowed various top-ups.

The amount depends on the staff members' grade and how they were rated, and the company meeting targets. A spokeswoman for Ervia said that the bonus scheme has not yet been applied at Irish Water.

"It would be next year before Irish Water employees are even assessed for such a scheme," the Ervia spokeswoman said.

Irish Independent

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