Belfast Telegraph

£35m loss to economy in one-day strike

Private sector bosses left to pick up tab for public sector revolt

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland firms look set to lose tens of millions of pounds because of yesterday’s public sector strike.

Economist John Simpson calculated a figure of approximately £35m, based on a day’s GDP, which he believed would be the net effect of yesterday’s action.

Incoming chair of the Confederation of British Businesses, Ian Coulter, said local businesses were being hit hard.

“We are getting extremely negative feedback from our members,” he said. “This isn’t a big fight between public and private sectors, this isn’t about big rich bankers being hit in the pocket, it’s personal cost as well as business cost, a secretary having to spend money on petrol to get into her work for a day’s pay.

“Businesses across the board, especially those with logistics or travel arms, are being hit; people with young families who work, it is not discriminatory.”

Some retailers and coffee shops reported increased footfall but other homegrown businesses, some of which export their goods to Great Britain and further afield, experienced knock-on difficulties because of striking customs officials and port staff.

John Rooney, managing partner at Rooney Fish of Kilkeel, a family run business which sends fresh shellfish all over Europe, cancelled a weekly delivery as he could not guarantee it would make it through the Channel Tunnel and Dover.

He estimates that the strike could cost him up to £20,000.

“We ship to Europe and to the mainland and between everything else we got word back that the ferries were going to be slow, the customs people being off were going to make things slow, the Channel Tunnel was going to be slow,” he said.

“Because we couldn’t guarantee delivery on Thursday morning, and if I don’t deliver, I get crucified, so we took the decision not to deliver.

“We ship cooked, chilled and live shellfish and it was not worth the risk of a delay spoiling all that stock.

“We could be shipping in the region of £10-20k a day.

“I employ 40 people and everybody in the factory was sat twiddling their thumbs.

“Furthermore we lose money on the product we were not able to ship because we have to freeze it, therefore it is not worth as much.

“Things are hard enough at the moment, it has not been a good day for us.”

Roger Pollen, head of external affairs with the Federation of Small Businesses said that the strike was not taking place in an ideal economic climate.

“People like John Rooney are the drivers of the local economy, exporting produce all over the world,” he said.

“Local employers, manufacturers, exporters, are having a tough time of it too but are trying to succeed in a difficult climate and the disruption caused by this strike action will not help them.”

Ballyclare international transport company Woodside Haulage reported some of its hundreds of lorries were having to drive an extra 70 miles because of a closure of the Birkenhead and Wallasey Tunnels on Merseyside because of the strike action. The firm said the additional fuel costs per lorry could be “considerable”.

Belfast Telegraph