Press Release

SIPTU gives cautious welcome to government decision on water referendum

Date Released: 21 November 2018

Adrian Kane, SIPTU Public Administration Division Organiser, has given a cautious welcome to the cabinet decision yesterday to consult with the Attorney General for a referendum on the public ownership of water services. He said that it would be important that the wording of any referendum proposal would encompass the public control, ownership, management and supply of water.

“Our members who have been providing water services to the public have been calling for this referendum since 2005. If the Government can achieve the correct wording it would be an important development in ensuring that water infrastructure and water supply remains within the public realm,” Adrian Kane said.

“There is no reason this referendum cannot be run alongside the local elections in mid-2019. The inclusion of such a commitment to the public ownership of water supply in the Constitution would send out a strong signal that Irish people do not believe that it is appropriate for a such a vital natural resource to be commodified.

“Last week, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government wrote to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions inviting Local Authority unions to discussions under the auspices of the WRC with a view to the creation of a single utility to supply water services,” he added.

“SIPTU members employed in Local Authorities believe that the most effective way to develop our infrastructure is through the local authorities and Irish Water working together. We do not believe it is appropriate for our members employed by the local authorities to the public water supply to be ‘conscripted’ to Irish Water.

“This is only one of many issues to be considered in any talks process, however. The Congress Group of Unions is seeking a meeting with the housing and local government minister, Eoin Murphy, prior to any commitment to the talks process in order to clarify the terms of reference of the engagement. Ultimately, a key component of any successful talks process will be the delivery of the referendum to ensure that the water service remains under public control.”

SIPTU Local Authority Sector Organiser, Brendan O’Brien said: “SIPTU will not be accepting any variation to the current Service Level Agreement agreed with the local authorities unless our members’ needs are fully protected and the delivery of the public water system is carried out by directly employed workers covered by the provisions of the Public Service agreements.”


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