Three-Day Water Strike Kicks Off

Deansrath Depot Picket by Unite Water Workers

Water Workers with Unite in Cork City, Cork County, Co. Kerry, Co. Carlow, South Dublin County, Co. Tipperary, Co. Waterford have kicked off a three-day strike this morning.

Workers at the Deansrath Water and Drainage Depot in South Dublin County were supported by Unite staff officials, People Before Profit, and fellow workers in other unions who stood in solidarity refusing to break any pickets.

One fellow water worker who was standing in solidarity with the picketers said ‘We got letters from our union being asked to report in- you see being told or being asked: that’s a difference.’

Another similar response from a solid trade union member who was not in Unite but decidedly ‘never crossing picket’:
‘There’s no way I could cross a picket line on these lads. I work with them everyday.’

Asked what he was doing to make up the money for the day:
‘Taking the hit,’ ie. not taking a sick day or a holiday. I’m just respecting the picket. I’ll stand with them. They said “Stand over there”. No- I’m with them.’

That kind of solidarity is growing and workers see that the strike which has escalated from the one and two-day pickets to a full three-day picket threatens local authorities’ ability to guarantee their water safety.

On the previous two-day strike in Fingal, water inspectors reportedly stood in solidarity with the workers’ pickets refused to cross and as a result could not officially register water safety. Technically and by all procedures, workers reported, this should have led to boil water notices for much of Fingal.

Boil water notices have already gone out today in Cork due to industrial action but boil notices will be higher and longer than usual across Ireland in authorities on strike.

Unite members are striking for recognition and without it they can’t get written assurances- assurances which to date have not been evidenced in writing to the workers of any of the unions.

In a positive development, early yesterday morning Unite’s officials in Fingal were told the CEO there had decided to write up the guarantees as the water workers’ direct employer. The workers in turn voted to temporarily suspend strike action in that location only as a sign of good faith, highlighting an example of how progress can be made at a local level. Similar promises were reportedly made in Cork, but Cork is striking until they see the written agreement in front of their members. There were 30 boil water notices active in Cork at the time of writing according to the Uisce Éireann website.

We can conclude that strike action through a democratic process in Unite is winning action from some CEOs of some authorities and fulfilling the verbal promises made by Minister Darragh O’Brien on 2 June 2023. O’Brien gave assurances that day to the water workers’ largest union SIPTU. He approved the Local Government Management Agency to ‘red-circle’ workers’ terms and conditions and earnings. This promise diverted the planned SIPTU strike action two months ago today. The LGMA, who coordinate work between local authorities, have since that date failed enact the Ministers’ word in writing to SIPTU.

To date no workers have not seen the written assurance of the Minister’s promises on how their incomes will be maintained after they chose to move to Uisce Éireann or remain with in their local authority.

Unite members campaigned for a vote on the proposed transfer agreements in their union. They won that campaign. They got the right to vote on the deal. They saw it and duly voted it down. The group of unions which typically negotiate with the LGMA dropped Unite from their group as a result, rather than give their own members their democratic right to vote on the future of their employment. None of the other members of the group of unions (Fórsa, Connect, SIPTU) have yet allowed their members a vote on this crucial transfer agreement.

But SIPTU’s members do want to fight. They overwhelmingly voted in May 2023 to strike in June 2023 by margins of over 9 to 1 in across the country. This would have been a massive blow to the Uisce Éireann consolidation. Workers still have no clarity but the light is starting to get in thanks to the active water worker members across the country.

Much is becoming clear about how and why workers are resisting. People Before Profit respects Unite’s principled stance on giving workers a vote and supporting strike action where the workers’ future is unclear. These workers deserve every support over the next three days. They are real fighters and exemplary trade unionists.

Get down to the pickets and support the workers.

Carlow Water Workers Picket 2 Aug 2023
One of the Cork Water Workers’ pickets 2 Aug 2023
Waterford Water Picket at Waterpark 2 Aug 2023
People Before Profit’s Branch visiting the Waterford Pickets 2 Aug 2023 from PBP Waterford Facebook