News : War of Words Over Irish Water Jobs
Cork, Ireland, April 29, 2016 -- A political row has erupted in Cork over potential job losses on Leeside linked to the decision to shelve Irish Water.
There are concerns for the future of jobs at customer service company, Abtran, and Irish Water itself, which has operational bases in Cork. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and anti-water charge TDs have been challenged to publicly state how they will deal with Irish Water workers now left with an uncertain future. Acting Minister for European Affairs and Cork North Central TD, Dara Murphy, and newly elected senator and former Cork South Central TD, Jerry Buttimer, have asked Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance to explain how they would appease Irish Water staff and call centre staff at Abtran, who fear losing their jobs now that water charges have been suspended.
Mr Buttimer added that projects like the Cork Harbour Lower Sewerage Scheme could be in jeopardy if there was no funding in place for Irish Water to deal with it as a priority.
Former Labour Party TD in Cork South Central, Ciarán Lynch, accused Fianna Fáil of "resurrecting the spirit of 1977" when then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch abolished domestic charges.Minister Dara Murphy told the Evening Echo that people would have to continue paying for water in one form or another.
"Unfortunately, Fine Gael only won 50 seats so we had to compromise. But €3 a week in water charges cannot be the issue that prevents a government being formed when there is homelessness, housing and health to be tackled, so we compromised. There have been disgraceful comments from some in Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the AAA who have no regard for the distress it brings to workers in places like Abtran who are worried about their futures."
Abtran employs more than 1,800 people in Blackrock, and has experienced rapid incredible growth in recent years. It has the contract to deal with customer service for Irish Water, with several hundred jobs linked to this contract. The company did not respond to requests to comment.
Mr Buttimer echoed the sentiments expressed by Mr Murphy. "What happens to the jobs in Cork? Mechanisms have to be put in place to protect those good people who are doing their jobs."
"On a local level, this will have an impact on jobs directly and indirectly. In regards to infrastructure, billions of euro will now have to be found off the balance sheet to pay for water schemes. That will mean people’s take-home pay will be affected as well as housing, health and childcare budgets especially."
Fine Gael councillor John A Collins, a representative of the Carrigaline/Ballincollig area, said the suspension of water charges was only "kicking the can down the road".
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Cllr Collins said to abolish Irish Water would also inevitably lead to job losses, including positions held by workers in Abtran. "Of course there will be job losses. And nobody wants that," he said. "I particularly hope there won’t be any job losses because my daughter works for Abtran."
AAA TD Mick Barry said water charges should be completely scrapped but that workers could be protected.
"There should be no job losses. Irish Water should be scrapped but the workers should be offered alternative employment in the local authorities and elsewhere."
Irish Water said in a statement: "When we are informed by government of any policy decisions that affect Irish Water or water charges we will assess the implications of those decisions for our customers, our operations and for our staff."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Irish Water Company:
Irish Water Ltd. is a water utility company in Ireland. The company was created by the Irish Government through the Water Services Act (2013), which formally created Irish Water as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis, to provide "safe, clean and affordable water and waste water services" to water users in Ireland. Water and wastewater services were previously provided by local authorities in Ireland.
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