Sunday 15 September 2019

Irish Water 'plans to cut 1,200 jobs over next six years'

* Company 'substantially overstaffed'
* Voluntary redundancy scheme 'needed'
* Target of €1.1bn savings by 2021

Dr John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water pictured in his offices at the Irish Water HQ in Colvill House on Dublin's Talbot Street.
Pic Frank Mc Grath
Dr John Tierney, Managing Director of Irish Water pictured in his offices at the Irish Water HQ in Colvill House on Dublin's Talbot Street. 20/11/14 Pic Frank Mc Grath
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

IRISH Water is planning to cut a total of 1,200 people from its staff over the next six years.

The company is reported to be 'substantially overstaffed' and is 'under constant pressure to reduce costs'.

It has a target of €1.1bn savings by 2021, and said one third of these savings will come from reducing staff members.

Ervia, the multi-utility company and parent of Irish Water, today published the business plan for the utility up to 2021.

A total of 300 jobs have been cut since last year, but the company reports this reduction in staff members was through natural attrition and not filling roles that became vacant.

They told stakeholders this morning that the reduction in staff members up to now has been achieved without redundancies.

The company said they will continue this approach but said a voluntary redundancy scheme is also needed to reduce the staff numbers.

The reported that, by 2021, the business "will reduce staff numbers by 1,500 from 2014 levels". 

“Our water and wastewater services are not fit for purpose to meet the needs of a modern society and economy," Ervia’s Chief Executive Michael McNicholas said at a business stakeholders briefing this morning.

"Much of the infrastructure is old and poorly maintained.

"Half of our water never makes it to the tap, we discharge untreated sewage onto our beaches, nearly 1 million people’s water supply is at risk and we don’t have enough capacity for our capital to grow.

"The European Court of Justice is pursuing Ireland for multiple failures to address the discharge of raw sewage into our environment.

"This cannot continue.

“Having a single national utility is the only way to deliver the essential investment and transformation required between now and 2021. A utility model for water services has long been the norm across Europe, and is the norm in Ireland for other essential services such as electricity and gas,” he added. 

The company said that, as part of their five-year-plan, they also intend to:

• Eliminate the risk of drinking water contamination for 940,000 people

• Lift all current boil water notices

• Reduce leakage from 49pc to 38pc - saving 180 million litres every day

• Implement a national lead strategy to reduce risk of contamination in up to 140,000 homes and an additional 40,000 homes on shared services

• End the discharge of untreated wastewater at 44 locations

• Significantly increase water and wastewater capacity to support social and economic development.

Read more: Irish Water saves 3bn litres of water

Last month, it was decided that Irish Water employees are to receive backdated incremental pay rises of up to 3pc following a recommendation from the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).

It was hoped the decision, on September 16, would end the ongoing row over the performance-based pay structure which was introduced in 2013 for Irish Water and Bord Gais Eireann (now known as Ervia), which was aimed at securing savings.

The new structure saw automatic incremental pay rises replaced by performance-related awards. There was also to be a pay freeze until 2016.

However, it was described as a bonus culture by critics as the controversy over Irish Water mounted last year.

The company responded to criticism by refusing to pay the performance-related awards for 2013 and 2014 and also refused to reinstate the increments.

The LRC criticised the company and recommended it reinstate the pay structure.

Read more: Irish Water criticised for 'high handed' approach

Speaking to RTE Radio One at the time, Group Head of Employee Relations at Ervia Mr Paul Dunne said it was always the company's intention to return to the pay model.

"We do accept [today's decision]," he said.

"We spent time at the LRC discussing this.

"We took a decision, and it was a difficult decision in 2014 not to pay performance-related awards under our pay system.

"The reasons [for removing the system] were very well outlined. It was a difficult time for the company, there was a lot of controversy around what was in our view misconceived as a bonus culture."

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