Belfast Telegraph

Staff protests blamed as water cut to 10,000 homes in Tyrone and Fermanagh

By Nevin Farrell

Ten thousand homes woke up without water this morning after major disruption to supply across the west of Northern Ireland.

Supplies have been restored to 6,000 - but the remaining 4,000 may not have water until this evening, as NI Water workers are currently engaged in industrial action.

Water began going off in parts of Fermanagh as early as 4am on Sunday and was still off last night.

Large swathes of Tyrone and Fermanagh have been affected, including Enniskillen, Lisnaskea, Irvinestown, Fivemiletown, Maguiresbridge, Augher, Clogher, Sixmilecross and Ballygawley.

NI Water said its ability to fix the problem last night was "very limited" due to ongoing industrial action. Unions had warned supply disruptions would be likely after withdrawing emergency cover last week.

"NI Water regrets as many as 10,000 customers served by the Killyhevlin treatment works in Enniskillen may have suffered disruption to their water supply due to ongoing industrial action," a spokesman said.

"Despite the fact the company has in place contingency plans to minimise disruption due to the industrial action, resources available to NI Water, out of normal working hours, remain very limited. As a result service levels have been impacted, in particular in relation to responses to emergency situations."

Shona Morrison (21), from Lisbellaw, said that while doing the Sunday dinner dishes and not being able to flush toilets was a problem, the biggest impact in her house had been on her 10-year-old autistic brother. She said the disruption to his important routine had caused upset.

"He has a bath every second night and after that didn't happen tonight it was a battle of wills with him," she said.

She added that many people were unable to get bottled water in Enniskillen as the big supermarkets closed at 6pm.

DUP councillor Keith Elliott said: "I've been contacted by many people in the area, from the elderly to those with young families, and the simple reality is that they need water in their homes.

"NI Water have identified the problem, but having been in continuous contact with them, the initial estimated time for restoration of supplies is currently as far away as 6pm tomorrow night. That in my view is totally unacceptable."

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More than 1,000 workers represented by Nipsa, Unite, and the GMB have been taking industrial action since December 22. Last week, unions announced the end of a protocol designed to avoid water shortages, saying management had taken advantage of their goodwill emergency cover over Christmas.

On Thursday, NI Water presented a plan to trade unions. It said it isn't within its gift to defer pension reform, but said it had offered revisions to pension arrangements. It said it made other offers such as increased holiday entitlement, a removal of caps on overtime, and the promise of a pay proposal which would mitigate the impact of increased pension contributions for three years. But Ryan McKinney of Nipsa said: "While there was some hope that this week's talks could have produced a temporary solution, the latest management offer is so weighted down with strings and chains that it has been rejected outright."

Belfast Telegraph


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