Road crews staying in depot due to budget cuts: Claim
Road repair crews are being kept in their depots as a direct result of the Stormont budget cuts, it has been claimed.
And some staff were reportedly sent home on sick pay because their bosses were unable to find them work.
The workers' trade union Unite claimed chaos in the roads management system was increasing, with:
- potholes being dealt with on a day-to-day basis;
- only the very worst potholes being patched up;
- a £50-a-day limit on buying materials.
Unite is now calling an emergency meeting of union representatives and has urged Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and the overall Executive to take urgent action.
Its demand came after the Mr Kennnedy confirmed that machinery and vehicles in TransportNI - the new name for the roads service - have been mothballed indefinitely.
Unite regional official Gareth Scott said: "Staff are being confined to their depots because there is a £50 per day per depot limit on buying materials to fill potholes, for example, and to buy fuel.
"And we are investigating the reasons why it seems some staff were sent home on sick pay in the eastern region.
"In a number of depots in the southern region, all industrial workers were confined to the depot as managers were unsure what to do with them in the absence of materials. We understand that workers have been told that this situation is 'until further notice'.
"Planning which potholes will be dealt with is now happening on a day-to-day basis with only the very worst category on major roads being patched.
"In the eastern region, the situation was so bad that some workers were sent home on sick pay. It is clear that these cuts have been enforced with no assessment of their scale or their impact.
"This is an intolerable situation and Unite is calling an emergency meeting of our reps to decide our response to this situation."
A spokesman for the DRD said, however: "No staff have been placed on sick absence due to the resource limitations. However, the duties of approximately seven members of staff in our eastern division who had been employed on revised duties because of health issues are currently being reassessed.
"Road inspections will continue. However, at present funding is only available to repair the most serious defects.
"Due the reduction in the resource budget available to the department, TransportNI is currently not in a position to deliver a full range of routine maintenance services.
"The minister has instructed TransportNI to provide a basic level of service to protect the safety of the public.
"All staff are fully employed on current work programmes."
Last week Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy told the Stormont committee which monitors his department: "My budget does not provide for sufficient service provision in areas like repair of potholes and traffic lights and other measures."