Water Workers Protest Broken Promises

SIPTU Members Protest March

Council-employed water workers have organised a series of protests across the country to draw attention to what to what is happening with their employment and our provision of water. They say SIPTU has broken key promises around the transfer of their employment to Irish Water. They are protesting at SIPTU’s office in Kilkenny tomorrow at 2:30.

The workers are directly organising across counties via Facebook on a public page called Water Service Workers Ireland. The description of the page says: Local Authority workers and supporters against the ICTU group of unions agreement with Irish Water with will lead to water charges coming back.

Stopping the return of water privatisation is one of their major issues for these workers and it concerns the public who overwhelmingly rejected the imposition of water charges. SIPTU had promised them that they would not be transferred to Irish Water until the referendum had been held.

But the union appears to have softened this statement. Workers we spoke to believe they have backtracked. There is still no referendum date set despite news that it may be held on the same day as a referendum on housing. Workers are protesting to highlight this public concern. They demand a return to the promises SIPTU had made: a referendum on public ownership and distribution of water before the transfer. Workers have put this to the fore of their campaign.

Secondly their union had promised them a vote on the service level agreement (SLA) under which they would be transferred to Irish Water. Irish Water (soon to be re-named Uisce Éireann at a cost of 5 million euro) will direct their work not the county councils where they are directly employed by the public. Ignoring doubts about the water referendum, SIPTU’s officials over water service workers are telling workers this previous promise is no longer needed and won’t be kept. SIPTU won’t give workers the vote to approve the SLA.

Thirdly terms and conditions which were arrived at in local councils are felt to be at risk. Drainage rates, on call rates, overtime: these all vary county council to county council worker to worker. New management will bring them into line and many especially hard fought victories will be erased.

Workers have protested at county and city council offices like the one People Before Profit reported on from Carlow. They’ve also protested at SIPTU offices in Cork and Waterford. On Friday 9 September at 2:30pm they will protest in Kilkenny at the SIPTU offices. They are asking for support from across the country in their campaign.

They’ve asked us to carry their leaflet text to help support them. People Before Profit are fully behind their efforts to stop water privatisation and preserve and improve their terms and conditions and pay. These are the good green union jobs Ireland needs more of.

There should be no outsourcing and no privatisation to weaken their position or water provision. Public water is an environmental and social benefit we all fought to defend for ourselves and the future. It is not a commodity. Imagine the increases to our water bills this year if we hadn’t started marching in 2014!

The people are with them, People Before Profit are with them, and their fellow SIPTU members are with them in workplaces, branches, and divisions across the island.

These water workers have kept up the fight. People Before Profit members supporters and representatives be there with them as they look for support now.

We encourage SIPTU and People Before Profit branches to send them messages of support tomorrow as they protest in Kilkenny at 2:30 and as they continue their fight.

See below:




Siptu officials are selling out water services workers, the very people they claim to represent. 

Despite numerous assurances and promises that the Service Level Agreement, they have now gone behind workers’ backs and have agreed to end the agreement prematurely.

  • One Siptu official: “Ye have nothing to worry about, lads, because Siptu are looking to extend the SLA from 2026 out to beyond 2030”. 
  • Emails from two other Siptu officials: “We have a clear mandate from our members and ultimately it’s our members who will have the final say”.
  • Second email: “Siptu’s position on the SLA hasn’t changed and never will”.
  • At a meeting with water services workers in Cork December 2021 a Siptu official promised workers a vote on the document when the talks concluded. 
  • When suggested to the official that a protest of workers from all over Ireland outside Dáil Éireann should take place he agreed that this was a good idea.

This never happened. Siptu has abandoned all previous commitments to its members. 


Siptu officials issued a framework document in June 2022 with no consultation with workers or no mandate. Incredibly they are telling us that we are not entitled to a vote on this life-changing document. 

Their reason for a no vote is they claim that there are no changes to workers’ terms and conditions. This is totally untrue. 

They also claim that the National Water Committee had been in constant communication with workers throughout the process. This is totally untrue. 

We as workers are not accepting this betrayal. We are fighting back against our union officials.  We have already begun to protest against Siptu officials with marches having taken place in Cork three times and Waterford another protest will take place in Kilkenny Friday 9 September. 

These protests will continue and get bigger, culminating in a demonstration outside Siptu’s head office in Dublin’s Liberty Hall. 


We as workers are demanding the following from Siptu. 

1. The SLA to be maintained and extended as previously promised. 

2. All water services workers to be balloted on the framework document. 

3. Siptu are to withdraw from all talks with the government and Irish Water until such time as they publicly announce a date for a referendum on the public ownership of water services. This was a red line issue during talks.

4. The current Siptu officials on water services are not fit for purpose and need to be replaced because of the way they have handled this process and how they have treated us as members.

Printed by Water Service Workers Ireland. See our Facebook page.

‘Our Union, Our Water, Our Vote. REFERENDUM NOW!’ from Water Service Workers Ireland on Facebook