Details of NI Water deal must be made public today

Morning View
Morning View

NI Water needs to reveal as a matter of urgency the details of the bargain which has been reached with the protesting staff who have caused so much misery in recent days.

The Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said the agreement will be hailed “especially by those in the west who have experienced significant disruption to their water supply”.

Of course people who have suffered will be delighted that the dispute is over but their understandable relief has no relevance as to whether or not a deal was appropriate.

NI Water need to spell out what has been conceded, and given that the body is largely funded by Mr Kennedy’s department he too needs to make clear his position on the details of the deal, and its ramifications for the public sector.

There was an extraordinary suggestion last night that the work-to-rule staff had been given a pay rise at a time of cutbacks to Northern Ireland’s public sector.

Such a rise would offset the higher pension contributions that they were expected to make.

Far from buckling to those who took action, NI Water — fully backed by Mr Kennedy — should be looking at overhauling working practices that have allowed the body to be so reliant on overtime.

It will be a scandal if this deal turns out to be yet another example of Stormont weakness in the face of difficult decisions that have to be made for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Pension arrangements across the public sector continue to be remarkably generous, even after modest reforms. Such arrangements mean that the children of today will have to work decades longer and pay more taxes to fund their elders.

It is deeply irresponsible for politicians not to recognise that and act upon it.

If the NI Water action has paid off, then Stormont weakness has given the green light to further industrial action.