Uisce Éireann said on Thursday it had issued a boil water notice for 100,000 people due to what it said was an “excessive” and “disproportionate” strike action involving “only a hundred people in dispute”.
About 120 local authority water workers who are members of the Unite union are involved in the three-day action, which is about the proposed transfer of workers from local authorities to Uisce Éireann and guarantees with regard to the terms and conditions of those who choose not to move.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland programme on Thursday, Tom Cuddy, Uisce Éireann’s head of asset operations, called on Unite workers involved in the action to engage positively with dispute-resolution mechanisms.
“We want them to cease their action because it’s having a very significant impact on people, on their homes and their livelihoods, on the services. It’s very, very regrettable the effects it’s having. It’s an excessive action. It’s disproportionate to what the issues at hand are.”
He also warned of “a very slow and mixed response to emergencies that arise”. There had been a situation on Wednesday evening when there was a mechanical failure and there had been “either a slow or a negative response”, he said, meaning there could be water outages for several hours, in some cases affecting thousands or tens of thousands of people.
“There’s a framework that has been put in place by the Government following extensive negotiations with all parties, which gives very extensive guarantees on terms and conditions and assurances for all workers and all of the other unions and other worker representative groups that have come on board to follow the implementation of that through the Irish Water Consultative Group.
“We’d encourage these people to go along with their colleagues and to engage in the same manner.
“We have already embarked on working with the Irish Water Consultative Group in order to tease out the details because essentially it’s a framework that’s in place, and the details have to be developed,” Mr Cuddy said.
On Wednesday, Uisce Éireann said boil water notices would be in place until Friday for parts of Tipperary and Waterford, while Glashaboy in Cork will also be impacted from midnight on Thursday.
It said the issuing of the notices was precautionary but that they “may remain in place for a number of days post-strike action as we work to ensure water is safe to drink”.
The plants affected in Waterford, Tipperary and Cork due to Unite action are Adamstown, Stradbally, Ballylaneen, Crotty’s Lake, Glenary and Poulavanogue, it said.
“There may also be some disruption to water services, in particular the speed at which bursts to the water network are repaired in Waterford, Tipperary and Cork, but also in Kerry, South Dublin, Fingal and Carlow,” Uisce Éireann added.
The authority said water must be boiled for drinking, making drinks, preparing uncooked food, brushing teeth and making ice.