Belfast Telegraph

Pubs of Ulster warns NI Water strike could have 'catastrophic consequences' for festive tipplers

By Amanda Ferguson

Pubs of Ulster has warned that NI Water staff's industrial action could force pubs to close over the festive season.

Colin Neill, the chief executive of the body representing the retail licensed trade here, is urging unions and NI Water management to strike a deal to avoid disruption to the hospitality industry and consumers over the holidays.

This comes after more than 1,000 NI Water staff began industrial action in response to a dispute over pensions.

Members of NIPSA, Unite and the GMB voted for a work-to-rule and withdrawal of on–call services and overtime as of Monday.

Last-minute attempts to resolve the dispute are currently being made.

The Labour Relations Agency has been called in to try to broker a resolution.

Mr Neill is appealing for an agreement.

“It is unthinkable and unfair if the hospitality sector is once again hit by forces beyond their control at such a critical time," he said.

"Over the past three Christmases we have seen major disruption to our trade and this industrial action could result in us losing another vital trading period.

“I would urge the unions and management from NI Water to engage immediately and reach a settlement over the pension dispute.

"Whilst it is not our place to comment on the actual dispute, it is our members who will feel the brunt of this work to rule.

"We are the only business sector that will be operating at full capacity over the Christmas period and therefore the sector that has the most to lose."

If the NI Water dispute is not resolved, the Pubs of Ulster chief said many of our pubs, restaurants and hotels could see serious disruptions to their water service as a result

"The impact of such a disruption at this time of year would be catastrophic, particularly when the industry relies heavily on trade over the festive period to produce approximately 20% of its turnover," he added.

“Disruption to water services at this time could force some premises to close.

"This will mean many licensed premises facing a very critical first quarter of 2015, trying to get by on very poor cash flow.

“Our industry cannot withstand any further pressures at this time of year when maximising trade is a priority.

"We extend our full support to the NI Water management and Unions and hope they are able to negotiate an agreement as a matter of urgency before businesses are hit hard with the impacts of this industrial action.”

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