Northern Ireland

NI Water dispute: More than 1,300 homes without supply

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Media captionBusinesses and homes have faced disruption because of an industrial dispute over pensions between Northern Ireland Water and trade unions.

About 1,300 properties remain without water, as industrial action by NI Water staff continues.

The disruption is across counties Tyrone and Londonderry.

Normal out-of-hours repairs are not being carried out because of the dispute over pensions.

NI Water said it would try to minimise disruption, but resources were limited. The company has a postcode search on its website for customers to check for information.

The areas still affected:

Omagh: Carrickmore, Dungannon (Sultan Road), Glenhull, Greencastle, Loughmacrory, Mountfield, Omagh (Camcosy Road, Gorticashel Road, Cairn Road, Cloghan Road, Fernagh Road, Green Road, Striff Lane), Pomeroy (Camlough Road and Loughmallon) and Sixmilecross.

Draperstown: Cahore Heights and surrounding areas

Pomeroy: Sluggan Road, Bardahessiagh Lane

An alternative water supply is available in the following locations:

Greencastle: Maryville, Sheskinshule, Omagh, BT79 7QW (near Greencastle and Crockanboy Road junction)

Creggan: Creggan Visitors Centre, 182 Creggan Road, Carrickmore, BT79 9AA

Mountfield: Main Street, Mountfield, BT79 7PP

Loughmacrory: Loughmacrory Community Centre, Ballybrack Road, Loughmacrory, BT79 9LU

Carrickmore: Creggan Road and Barony Road crossroads (at the layby opposite the filling station), BT79 9BL

NI Water said customers will need to bring their own containers to collect water from the tanks.

Customers are also asked to boil the water before use.


Living without water

Patricia Gray lives outside Draperstown, County Londonderry, and has been without water since Thursday morning.

"We've had two short spurts of water this morning for about half an hour, on Saturday, for about one hour and that's it. This is day four.

"It's the coldest snap in the winter and we can't even heat the house because of the pressurised system that uses the water.

"We've had three or four inches of snow.

"There's six of us in the house altogether, three teenage girls who shower and wash their hair everyday.

"It's awful, it's just got to the point where it is really frustrating and everybody is very angry in this area that nothing seems to be getting done.

"We're rate payers, we're paying for a service that has just let us down completely.

"We're quite rural, this would never be allowed to happen in Hillsborough. Belfast wouldn't be crippled the way we are.

"Apologies really are no good for us. People are running a multi-million pound company and it's just not good enough."


NI Water chief executive Sara Venning said: "It is completely unacceptable that this industrial action is aimed and targeted at customers."

Direct consequence

She added: "We made an offer on Friday and we asked that while they consider the offer they put in place arrangements to protect the public drinking water supply.

"They refused to do that, and we see these interruptions to supply as a direct consequence of their refusal."

Image caption NI Water staff are involved in work-to-rule industrial action due to a pensions dispute

NI Water said as a result of the industrial action, unions were only allowing their staff to work between eight and four during the week, so outside of those hours, there was no cover for the water treatment works or the distribution works.

Ryan McKinney of the public service union Nipsa said NI Water had put forward what they said was a "final offer" on Friday, but it was not enough to suspend their industrial action.

"If that offer had been one that we felt would have been accepted by our representatives and the wider membership, we would have been in a position to reinstate the emergency protocol," he said.

"However, it's quite clear to us that the offer falls well short of the main demand of the workers in this dispute - it would mean they would have to accept the pension changes this year, and there's no package that ameliorates any of that."

Goodwill

He said more talks would be held with NI Water this week, and it was important to resolve the dispute.

"When I speak to our members, who after all are also affected when an area loses water, they say to me, 'why should we reinstate goodwill?' When was the last time they got any goodwill from the company?

"When workers in an important public utility decide to take action, unfortunately that will pit them against other working people as well, and all of them are really being affected by the government's decision."

Last weekend, about 10,000 customers in counties Fermanagh and Tyrone were left without water after a pump at a treatment plant in Enniskillen broke down.

Nipsa, Unite and GMB members voted last month for a work-to-rule and withdrawal of on-call services and overtime in a row over pensions.

NI Water said it remained "committed to continued engagement" with trade unions in an effort to resolve the dispute.

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