Unite’s Water Workers Strike

Water workers in Waterford Rally at Waterford Crystal

People Before Profit stands 100% with Unite’s water worker strike today. Dozens of sites across Ireland saw pickets as Unite’s Water Service Workers in 10 local authorities went on a 24-hour strike.

Why are water workers in Unite?
Unite backed water workers’ clear demands for a vote on the terrible transfer agreement. The workers in Unite immediately voted the deal down when they had the chance- a chance that has been denied to workers in other unions. Good on Unite for responding to this call. Good on the workers for organising at the grassroots and pushing.

When Unite agreed to organise a workers’ vote on the deal union officials and the LGMA (Local Government Management Agency), councils and Irish Water agreed, it meant Unite broke with a ‘consensus of silence’ around the future of water workers in Ireland. And it was a change in Unite and it demonstrated their ability to act democratically on behalf of their members in water services. Unite needs to be fully respected by the LGMA and all stakeholders as a representative union.

Why the strike?
Unite has not been recognised by all the stakeholders equally to other unions where they represent members. The strike action today is about getting recognition for this fighting union because fighting workers need a voice. Workers are fighting for that right to recognition today but we know the water workers strike means more too.

Workers are right to raise demands more demands too. Some of what they have campaigned for include:
1. red-circled agreements on terms and conditions and pay as previously promised;

2. the promised referendum on public water provision & ownership (with the correct wording);

3. a guarantee to retain their public status as water workers;

4. a right non-discriminatory redundancies if they started before or after 2004.

They should be able to raise all of their issues and, when mandated, their unions should fight for them and at the very least be recognised. That’s not just theory, the workers made that reality today. And it’s vital that they continue their fight and win.

Today’s action was a success across the country with reports from all counties showing solidarity from workers in water who refused to break pickets and community and political support. Reports from Cork say two of the biggest yards in the county serving all sections were completely shut down. It was a major success in terms of industrial action in the largest county. Waterford members said the same. Similar reports in Carlow and Fingal. The immense support shows the depth of solidarity across Irish society on the issue of water.

Irish Water is now Uisce Éireann. But the government’s agenda is still the same and still wrong. Privatisation is wasteful, costly, and bad for workers. 90-95% of unionised water workers across Ireland demanded strike action to fight on these issues but the big issue that unites workers with people across Ireland is the fight against privatisation. SIPTU is the largest union in the sector’s outdoor workers. Their ballot numbers for strike action were 90-95%. Workers want to fight. Change is desperately needed.
The Water Services Workers Ireland campaign called out the double talk, abandoned promises and lack of democracy. It’s been an exemplary nationwide campaign that didn’t stop at being watchdogs on social media or an online gossip/complaints forum: they organised protests on the streets around the country.

We were with the workers when the fight was just against individual councils. They united to make the fight winnable – and they were right. Too many commitments have been broken already.
Stand with the water workers. Don’t cross the picket.

A big bualadh bos from the water warriors across the country and from the thousands of members in People Before Profit.

Unite Members and Siptu supporters with Tom Fitzgerald outside Glashaboy Water Treatment Plant today. (photo by local workers)
Waterford Council of Trade Unions has strong support from active People Before Profit members. We are stronger together.
People Before Profit sent activists to around the country to show their support. Carlow’s low numbers of staff have had serious pressure on them from all sides and consistently have shown real fightback and solidarity.
Our rep in Swords Ollie Power was out early to the picket lines with the People Before Profit picket flyer for workers in Watery Lane.
Unite members with a solidarity sign for Iceland Workers in Dublin picket the Rathvilly Site. They reported turning away a 30-member building crew who in solidarity would not cross the picket.
Waterford Water Workers Rally at Waterford Crystal and show solidarity for the Iceland workers’ occupations in Coolock and Talbot St.
TD Paul Murphy on the Leixlip Water Workers Picket. (photo from Paul’s Twitter)
Uniting to fight. Unite’s Water Workers in Fingal rallied on Main Street in Swords at Fingal County Council at 2pm and were met with political support from across the left. Fingal water workers respected no matter their union respected, and in fact ‘loved’, the pickets- on consecutive shifts.