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Clarity sought on staff transfer to Irish Water

MORE clarity on the future of over 100 council staff, earmarked for transfer to Irish Water is expected in the coming months, according to Chief Executive, Pat Dowling.
Nationally, services are currently delivered for Irish Water by local authority water services staff operating under 31 Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which are due to continue until 2025.
Doubt was cast on the duration of these agreements however, when the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage published a policy paper in February, aiming to streamline services by transferring the local authority workers to the single water utility before the end of this year.
The move has been vigorously resisted by unions and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is currently involved in talks on the matter. The government has set the end of July as a deadline for securing a deal on the proposed transfers.
The issue, which would affect around 3,000 Council employees around the country and 130 in Clare, was raised at the May meeting of the local authority by Councillor Gerry Flynn.
“I’m asking for a workshop on what’s happening in relation to the transfer to staff to a single utility,” he said.
“This has huge ramifications for the delivery of services and I fear that a lot of our staff could be thrown to the wayside if they’re found to be surplus to requirements.”
Support for the call came from Councillor Pat Hayes. “This is really concerning for the staff,” he said, “as well as for the way water services are looked after around the county. I too would welcome an update on what’s happening.”
Responding, Mr Dowling said that a workshop for council members would be organised in the coming weeks.
“The LGMA (Local Government Management Agency) keeps a watching brief on this for us,” he said.
“There are hopes that discussions will conclude in July and we should have more clarity then.”
Unions representing local authority staff, the largest of which is Forsa, have voiced concerns over the loss of public service status, terms and conditions and security of employment.
They are looking for guarantees on pay and conditions, and have asked that there would be no compulsory redundancies.
Unions are also seeking a referendum to copper-fasten public ownership of Irish Water, amid concerns that the amalgamation could pave the way for privatisation of the water utility.
Concerns have also been raised about the future viability of local authorities if water services are removed from their remit.
At their local government conference earlier this month, Forsa warned that industrial action is highly likely in the coming months unless issues of staff concern are addressed.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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