Department of Infrastructure failure to address workforce pay inequality leaves winter service understaffed

Gareth ScottTransport NI failure to respond to union’s warnings about consequences of pay disparity blamed on absence of Infrastructure Minister

A fixed ‘rate for the job’ for road gritting duties is only way to ensure continued equality of cover for all parts of Northern Ireland

January 17th: Unite Regional Officer, Gareth Scott, explained his union’s efforts to avoid understaffing of winter service cover and the need for Transport NI (formerly Roads Service NI) to adopt a fair pay policy to sustain winter service provision:

“We understand that rosters to cover gritting duties are proving inadequate in some areas of Northern Ireland, in particular those in rural areas of Down and Antrim. As a result gritting has not been completed to standard and road users are being left to fend for themselves on dangerous roads.

“Unite has repeatedly has raised with management workforce concerns about the sustainability of the current pay regime in order to avoid this situation arising. At present, payment for those who do this work is calculated on the basis of a fixed overtime rate which means that members of management and even other Department of Infrastructure services are being paid considerably more to perform the same work as our members in Transport NI.

“This has been an issue of contention with the workforce for a number of years now but with the expansion of the Department of Infrastructure, there is ever greater awareness that Transport NI workers are receiving significantly less for this work than those on higher payscales elsewhere in the public service, let alone what is being paid to private sector contractors.

“Unite has repeatedly, including in recent weeks, raised the likelihood that workers would simply refuse to volunteer for these overtime duties. In previous years workers have stepped up to provide this service despite their objections to pay inequality but many are now refusing to be exploited in this way any longer. Unfortunately management at Transport NI have failed to act on the concerns we have raised. Indeed most recently we have been told that they can’t resolve the situation due to the absence of a Minister for Infrastructure.

“Transport NI and the Department of Infrastructure have a duty to ensure the roads are maintained safely for all communities. They cannot expect to tough it out by relying on enough to volunteer for overtime so that they can cover urban centres and the main arterial routes.

“The only way to address concerns of the workforce and to ensure adequate cover for all parts of Northern Ireland is for Transport NI to bring forward a fixed rate for the job. That way everyone doing the same work will be paid the same. Transport NI cannot simply rely on exploiting the goodwill of workers to the travelling public. If left unresolved, this issue will become a bigger problem in the future.

“Winter servicing must be properly funded as an essential service for all parts of Northern Ireland – that means paying workers a decent and fair rate for the job”, Mr Scott concluded.

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