Minister Coveney defends Irish Water staff in row over €5,000 bonuses

Minister Coveney defends Irish Water staff in row over €5,000 bonuses
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at the new wastewater treatment plant at Shanbally. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

IRISH Water staff have been unfairly “dragged into politics” through recent criticisms of performance related bonuses, Minister Simon Coveney has argued.

Staff at the controversial utility company were paid bonuses averaging just under €5,000 in March despite the fact that no bills have been issued or payments collected from domestic water users for almost a year.

The company defended the bonuses, saying they formed part of pay restoration recommendations made by the Workplace Relations Commission in 2015

Speaking at the official opening of a new wastewater treatment plant at Shanbally yesterday, Minister Coveney took issue with what he deemed to be efforts to create public outrage on the back of people who are working for the company.

“I regret that some have decided to turn your work and conditions and pay into a new political story again this week,” Mr Coveney told staff at the event. 

He argued that details of the payment structure had long been in the public domain following a WRC ruling in 2015.

“The truth is back in 2013 Ervia as a whole decided to move away from an incrementally based payment model, which would have been the norm at the time for most state-owned companies, and to move towards a performance related pay model," Minister Coveney outlined.

“That was good practice at the time and was going to save the company significant amounts of money.

“After that decision was made, because of a whole range of political considerations around water, there were no performance related awards in Irish Water at all in 2014, 2015 or 2016 despite the fact that in many other state-owned companies there were."

The new payment model will reportedly save Ervia about €34m in five years and save Irish Water some €22m compared to the previous method. Minister Coveney argued that efforts "to try and create public outrage around that when this is the basis of an agreed approach in the WRC" is inappropriate.

"This is not new, it is not a new story, this is simply the roll out and implementation of what has been agreed which is a new approach towards pay which is about efficiency and performance delivery as opposed to anything else.

"Yet again, unfortunately, as an organisation, you are being dragged into politics which is something that we need to end and I intend on working hard to try and do that this week and in the coming weeks to try and settle the water issue once and for all."

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