herald

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Irish Water staff bonus payment up to new board

The payment of bonuses to Irish Water staff will be decided by the new board of the semi-state company - not the Government, a senior minister said this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to demonstrate on Saturday in up to 50 centres across the country against the planned water charges and the operation of Irish Water.

The company has agreed to cut controversial bonus payments to staff, but only by 4pc. Workers in the commercial semi-state body are in line to receive a maximum "performance related payment" of up to 15pc of salary, but a further 4pc payment which applied to those who "far exceeded" expectations has been axed.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin says there is a view the bonuses should not be paid but said it was a matter for the board.

Confidence

"They need to win the confidence of the people with pay structures that are acceptable," he said.

Irish Water is due to have a new board appointed in the next month.

Mr Howlin said mistakes have been made at Irish Water and the time-frame is very demanding, but the country needs a water utility company.

The minister said the Government had no option but to implement water charges, as it couldn't go to Troika and say: "We're not doing it."

Mr Howlin is among the ministers in the Economic Management Council due to discuss ways to ease the pressure of water charges on families today.

The Coalition is looking at a cap on water charges for families with grown-up children still living at home.

But an extra water allowance for children over 18 who are attending college or are unemployed now appears to be off the table. And the extension of the fixed charges for up to two years is also regarded as difficult.

Ministers are continuing to seek a formula to defuse public anger at the failures in introducing water charges.

However, there are now concerns some families with several adult children and using a large amount of water could end up with a bill of up to €800 a year.

Children up to the age of 18 get a free allowance, which is supposed to cover their basic requirements. But there is no additional allowance for adult children still living at home.

Students

"There is a general recognition that Government would like to do something for households with a lot of adults, adult dependants or students," a source said.

The amount of flexibility is limited due to EU rules around State aid for utility companies.

The speculation around the choices available to the Government continues to focus on an extension of the period when flat-rate water charges will apply.

Meanwhile, Irish Water is advertising for a data protection manager, as it continues to be embroiled in controversy over its demands for customers PPS numbers.

The advertisement for the position says the successful candidate must:

l Assess, monitor and control risks arising from transfer of information to and from external organisations;

l Develop and implement an assurance plan over the critical information security and data protection risks;

l Provide training to all employees, contractors or other third parties;

l Develop and implement an information security and data protection policy, processes and procedures.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar defended the collection of PPS numbers by Irish Water.

"The reason you have to give Irish Water your PPS number is to gain access to your allowance. They can only use it for that purpose.

"People can believe that there's a conspiracy theory behind this and their numbers are going to be sold on to the CIA but look, that's just nonsense," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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