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Northern Ireland Water Dispute Stepped Up

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

GMB Members Step Up Industrial Action At Northern Ireland Water In Pensions Dispute

The withdrawal of all goodwill will now mean serious disruption as members will not respond to any calls outside of normal working hours says GMB.

GMB and the other two unions in the water group of trade unions have announced the termination of a protocol designed to avoid water shortages over Christmas and New Year in the dispute over pensions at Northern Ireland Water. Between the 23 December and 4 January union members responded to a number of critical incidents ensuring that the overwhelming majority of customers did not feel the impact of industrial action. The unions have now announced the ending of this arrangement.

More than 1,000 workers represented by NIPSA, UNITE and GMB have been taking industrial action since 22 December which includes a work-to-rule action. Supply disruptions are likely as at Northern Ireland Water maintain more than 2,700 treatment works and pumping stations. See notes to editors for copies of press releases on the dispute.

A union spokesperson on Monday 5th January confirmed that despite significant engagement between the trade unions and NI Water no resolution to the pension dispute has been found. On Monday 5th January union representatives met to discuss the ongoing industrial action and unanimously decided to end all emergency cover with immediate effect meaning staff participating in industrial action will not be asked by the ‘strike committee’ to respond to any incidents outside of working hours.

The unions have also insisted that any further negotiations now take place with the assistance of the Labour Relations Agency.

A spokesperson for the Water Group of Trade Unions said “The last thing our members wanted to do was disrupt water supplies over the holiday period and therefore we agreed a process whereby emergencies would be dealt with however the fact remains that NIW workers face into the New Year with the prospect of being financially worse off than in the past year.

The withdrawal of all goodwill will now mean serious disruption as our members will not respond to any calls outside of normal working hours. This inconvenience is completely avoidable and can end if the current proposals regarding the pension scheme are withdrawn.”

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Contact: Alan Perry (GMB) 07974018410 or Ryan McKinney (NIPSA) 07407735509 or Joanne McWilliams (UNITE) 07879692024 or GMB press office 07921 289880   

Notes to editors

Copies of GMB previous releases:

Copy of press release 19th December 2014

INDUSTRIAL ACTION AT NORTHERN IRELAND WATER FROM MONDAY 22ND DECEMBER AFTER TALKS FAIL TO RESOLVE DISPUTE OVER CHANGES TO PENSION SCHEME

Action is over attempts by the government owned company to scrap the current pension scheme and bring in new proposals that will cost many members up to £100 per month says GMB

Talks on 17 and 18th December between the water trade unions and Danny Kennedy, Minister for Regional Development, aimed at avoiding disruption to water supply and treatment services in Northern Ireland over the Christmas period have ended without agreement so the industrial action goes ahead from Monday 22nd December in a dispute about pensions. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release of 17th December in the dispute.

The industrial action will take the form of a work to rule including withdrawal of on-call, standby and overtime and this is likely to lead to supply disruptions as Northern Ireland Water have more than 2,700 treatment works and pumping stations to maintain.

Alan Perry, GMB Regional Officer, said “Over 1000 workers employed at Northern Ireland Water are to take industrial action from Monday 22nd December after more than 90% backed a ballot organised by the unions representing staff. The action, coordinated by the Water Group of Trade Unions, is in protest at attempts by the government owned company to scrap the current pension scheme. The new proposals will cost many members up to £100 per month.

The three unions which represent staff at Northern Ireland Water met with the Minister, Danny Kennedy, on Wednesday on 17th and intense discussions continued until late afternoon on 18th. However union representatives have unanimously rejected minor concessions tabled by NI Water management.”

Ryan McKinney, NIPSA Assistant Secretary, added “The current proposals will mean that many staff will see their contributions increase by £100 per month. We heard today from workers who are worried about their ability to keep a roof over their head so they are absolutely determined to resist these changes.

The unions have set out their position to both the Minister and Northern Ireland Water and unless the pension proposals are taken off the table staff will take action from Monday. The trade unions are willing to continue with negotiations right up to and beyond the 22nd December in order to attempt to find a solution and avoid disruption to communities.”

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Notes to editors

Copy of press release Wednesday 17th December 2014

Last Ditch Talks With Minister Today To Avert Industrial Action By GMB Members In Northern Ireland Water From Dec 22nd Over Changes To The Pension Scheme

Proposals will mean that all workers pay more and most will need to work for more years for less than under the current pensions scheme says GMB

GMB and the two others unions in the water group of trade unions in Northern Ireland are meeting with Danny Kennedy, Minister for Regional Development, today (Wed 17th Dec) to ask that the Minister intervene in order to avoid a dispute over attempts by the government owned company to scrap the current pension scheme.

Yesterday it was announced that GMB members in the water industry will take industrial action after more than 90% of the 1,000 workers who were balloted backed action. The action which is coordinated by the water group of trade unions, GMB, NIPSA, and Unite, will begin from 22 December.

The unions have announced a campaign of industrial action including withdrawal of overtime, refusal to provide ‘on-call’ services and a work to rule. Northern Ireland Water rely heavily on such voluntary activities and the action is likely to lead to significant disruption as repairs, including bursts, are delayed.

Alan Perry, GMB Regional Officer, said “The proposals which Northern Ireland Water want members to agree will mean that all workers pay more and most will need to work for more years for less than under the current scheme. This is in the context where over the past few years NI Water staff accepted below inflation pay settlements and more than 900 workers left under cost cutting and restructuring exercises.

However the pension scheme remains healthy, it is affordable, and staff are rightly angry that they are expected to pay more to get less. There hasn’t been industrial action in the water service in many years. However staff have voted overwhelmingly to take this step and all three unions are committed to supporting water workers. No-one wants to see action such as this, particularly at this time of year, but staff are saying enough is enough.”

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