Water dispute: Union warns of disruption to supplies

NI Water workers are in dispute over pensions
NI Water workers are in dispute over pensions

Interruptions to the water supply are a possibility if an industrial dispute is not resolved soon, a union official has warned.

Ryan McKinney of Nipsa said a work-to-rule by water workers – who are angry at changes to their pension arrangements – could become increasingly problematic for consumers.

On December 23, union leaders and water bosses agreed a protocol to ensure staff would work out of hours to prevent any public health issues arising from problems at sewerage plants or other sites.

Mr McKinney said the protocol has worked effectively, but could be short-lived.

“There were well over a dozen cases when we reached a critical point, which required the unions to agree that staff could carry out some work that would avoid a potential emergency.

“The protocol that was put in place has avoided a major impact on the public. It was designed to avoid leaving people without water at Christmas – that protocol may not necessarily last throughout the duration of the action.”

Mr McKinney added: “We will be pushing the Executive in January to get around the table with us, because it really is a NI Executive issue. There was one occasion in the last few days where a reservoir was at a critical level and some people would have been without supply.

“There are likely to be more of those whenever staff aren’t on call in the evening or at the weekends.”