Belfast Telegraph

NI water warns major weekend disruption 'likely' due to staff strike

Supply interruptions could be on a scale 'greater' than that which affected around 10,000 customers in Fermanagh and Tyrone

Northern Ireland Water has warned of potential major weekend disruption across the country as a result of ongoing industrial action by unions.

The company has warned that prospect of supply interruptions could be on a scale greater than those which affected Fermanagh and Tyrone during the week.

Last weekend around the water supply of around 10,000 customers in the counties were disrupted.

The company has assured customers that "all resources at our disposal will be deployed to minimise disruption".

A spokesman from NI Water said the extent and exact location is something which they cannot predict in advance

It comes as staff from three unions have voted to take industrial action in a row over pensions.

NIPSA, Unite and GMB members last month voted for a work-to-rule and withdrawal of on-call services and overtime.

On Wednesday, Stormont regional development minister Danny Kennedy told them any resolution would have to be within the Northern Ireland Executive's current pay and pensions policy.

In a statement NI Water said it had made a third formal offer to unions - which was being considered.

‘‘Since then intensive negotiations have been ongoing and NI Water made an offer - the third formal offer to be made during this dispute - to unions which includes movement on pension issues as well as the potential for a two year pay settlement.

"Whilst this offer is being considered, the company sought a re-instatement of the protocol to protect public health and critical customers; this was declined.

“The result of this is that customers across Northern Ireland now face the prospect of supply interruptions on a scale greater than those which affected Fermanagh and Tyrone during the week. "

The statement continued: "The company has sought to end this dispute by putting forward a number of proposals, but the key demand from unions that pension reform be deferred is not something that NI Water management have in their power to deliver."

NI water has said the "major incident regime" that has been in place since Before Christmas will continue.

It said: “We would assure customers that all resources at our disposal will be deployed to minimise disruption. These resources are however limited due to the withdrawal of emergency cover as part of the dispute.

"This regime has allowed us to largely maintain services across the province. The extent of our infrastructure is such, however, that if the emergency cover which has been withdrawn is not re-instated, our customers will suffer.

 “Unfortunately the extent and exact location is something which we cannot predict in advance. Where customers are off supply for more than 24 hours, NI Water will seek to provide alternative water supplies. Our ability to provide these alternative supplies will also be impacted by the industrial action being taken.

 “We will continue to work with unions to find common ground, but believe that while the dialogue continues the threat of disruption to our customers should be removed by suspending this action."

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