‘Goodwill’ emergency cover arrangements withdrawn by workforce after management abuse
January 10: The Water Group of Trade Unions, including UNITE, NIPSA and GMB, has announced the termination of a protocol designed to avoid water shortages during the festive period. As part of the arrangements, between the 23 December and 4 January workers responded to a number of critical incidents outside their normal working hours.
Unite industrial officer, Joanne McWilliams, indicated that despite some progress at negotiations mediated by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA), management had failed to address the workforce’s concerns in relation to proposed changes to pension costs and terms and conditions.
“While management had moved to address some areas of contention, their proposals in relation to pension costs were completely inadequate. Furthermore, management sought a change to ‘bell to bell’ working arrangements which would drastically extend the working day for water service staff with no recompense offered.
“All three unions brought the revised management proposals to our membership who unanimously rejected them.
“Our members have the right to take industrial action but have decided to limit this to a work-to-rule. Over the festive period we agreed to provide emergency cover to ensure that households didn’t experience any adverse impact from our industrial action.
“Unfortunately, there were a number of instances where this gesture of goodwill was abused by management. As such, we have decided to withdraw from arrangements to provide emergency cover with immediate effect. This will mean that staff participating in industrial action will not be asked by the ‘strike committee’ to respond to any incidents outside their normal working hours.
“While we regret this situation, it has resulted from management intransigence. There is still time, even at this eleventh hour, for the Minister and management to avoid the consequences of this concerning situation to intervene and make serious proposals to address our members’ concerns”, Ms McWilliams concluded.