Northern Ireland power workers warn of industrial action in row over pay
Workers at the company which ensures electricity is supplied to homes and businesses in Northern Ireland have given notice that they will take industrial action.
Members of the Prospect trade union at the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) - who operate the electricity transmission system - will begin action on April 8.
It will initially consist of action short of striking.
The move comes after SONI staff voted strongly in favour of action up to and including strike action.
SONI said that they were "deeply disappointed" with the staff's decision to strike.
Workers at the EirGrid-owned company have not received an annual pay award since 2015.
The union said there has been no breakthrough in negotiations, as SONI had failed to improve on previous offers.
Prospect negotiations officer Angela Moffatt, who represents the workers, said: "SONI have failed to improve their previous offers, despite last ditch talks initiated by Prospect via the Labour Relations Agency.
"We made a generous proposal which compromises on our claim and allows for an arbitrated solution. Still not good enough for EirGrid/SONI though.
"This smacks of the kind of arrogance we've become used to, sadly."
Ms Moffatt claimed there will be limited, if any, capacity to cover the functions staff withdraw.
"We envisage disruption for third parties - in particular NIE Networks, Mutual Energy & Renewable Energy Participants," she said.
"If our members are forced to continue their action, we see an upsurge in cost and disruption to other SONI stakeholders and participants.
"Ultimately somewhere down the line that cost and disruption will pass to the consumer."
General Manager of SONI, Robin McCormick said that they believed the strike action was "unnecessary and avoidable".
"SONI remains open and willing to engage with the union, as we have been doing over the past 12 months," he said.
“We value the vital work of our staff and we ensure they receive competitive salaries, which are regularly benchmarked. This is in addition to pay increments and performance related payments which we continued to pay during the period concerned.
“The actions of the union are demanding on the business, unsettling for industry, and concerning for consumers. As a result of this industrial action, the operation of the all-island wholesale electricity market may be affected. This has the potential for financial impacts which will ultimately be borne by all electricity users.
“While we will do our utmost to maintain core services and security of supply as a priority, the action by the union means that we may be operating the NI power system with a greater level of risk at certain times."