Cork homes and businesses could be left without water after council workers voted in favour of going on strike.
Some 2,500 Siptu members in water departments across the country have voted 92% in favour of strike action.
Cork City Council and Cork County Council staff voted overwhelmingly in support of taking the severest form of industrial action, in line with colleagues around the country.
Con Casey, Siptu representative, said such an action amounts to a “full withdrawal of labour”.
There are 54 people employed in City Hall in Water Services and even more in County Hall.
They are responsible for the operation and maintenance of all water supplies and sewerage schemes. Their work includes operating treatment plants, including the Lee and Inniscarra Waterworks, cleaning and monitoring drains and gullies and fixing broken pipes. The ballot was taken due to concerns over the Government’s plan to transfer control of the water services from local authorities to a new company, Irish Water, which has been set up as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis.
Mr Casey said members were disappointed that the decision to set up Irish Water had been taken without any consultation or engagement with staff. He said union members were concerned about the future supply of water as under the new set-up as it would be controlled by a commercial semi-State company instead of being under public ownership.
Some members fear the service could be fully privatised down the line. Workers Party councillor Ted Tynan said he was 100% behind the action being taken by workers.
“We have seen the great work done by water services staff time and again, but the fear is we won’t get the same service under the new Irish Water company as their focus will be on making a profit.”
Mr Casey said no date had yet been fixed for the strike action.