Christmas drought fear over industrial action at NI Water
There's a miserable Christmas in store for families here if threatened industrial action by Northern Ireland Water staff goes ahead, the Regional Development Minister has said.
Danny Kennedy's stark warning came as NI Water detailed the ways in which the planned measures would affect the public. These include:
- Interruptions to the water supply and deterioration in the water pressure.
- Delayed response to emergency calls about flooding, burst mains and supply interruptions.
- Deterioration in the quality of water supply as water treatment works are affected.
- Adverse effects on discharges into watercourses.
Mr Kennedy said: "The proposed industrial action creates a significant risk of people not having water over Christmas. This is completely unacceptable.
"While I understand that feelings are running high within the organisation, I stress that the industrial action has the potential to have widespread impact on families - and particularly on the elderly and the vulnerable - creating a miserable Christmas for many people."
He also called on the unions to engage with NI Water and the Department for Regional Development to find a way forward that would keep the taps running.
The key concern for the unions is the reform of the NI Water pension scheme.
However, the minister has said that the changes planned had already been implemented in the Civil Service and in other public sector organisations.
NI Water chief executive Sarah Venning said she was concerned about the consequences to the public if the industrial action goes ahead:
"We will take all possible steps to mitigate any potential impact to customers, including seeking assistance from contractors and other agencies, as well as invoking our mutual aid arrangements with other utilities and UK water and sewerage companies," she added.
"Despite this, however, in the event of unions not allowing their members to provide the normal cover in emergency situations over the Christmas period, we will have very limited in-house resources to operate and maintain our water and wastewater assets and infrastructure."
But NIPSA assistant secretary Ryan McKinney said: "As a result of the proposed pension changes, workers will have to work longer for what will be a reduced pension, and they will also lose approximately £100 every month from their pay packets."
Industrial action by Northern Ireland Water staff is due to begin on Monday at 8am. There will be an overtime ban and the withdrawal of on-call emergency cover, which NI Water relies on to keep water treatment and pumping stations functioning.
For all water-related emegencies, call NI water on:
Waterline: 0845 744 0088
Leakline: 0800 028 2011
Flooding: 0300 2000 100.