NI Water has warned that disruption to water supplies over the weekend is likely as a result of ongoing industrial actions by unions.
“When unions and ourselves met on Wednesday with Minister Kennedy, he made it clear that any agreement would have to be within the present government policy in relation to pay and pensions.
‘‘Since then intensive negotiations have been ongoing and NI Water made an offer - the third formal offer to be made during this dispute - to unions which includes movement on pension issues as well as the potential for a two year pay settlement.
“Whilst this offer is being considered, the company sought a re-instatement of the protocol to protect public health and critical customers; this was declined.
“The result of this is that customers across Northern Ireland now face the prospect of supply interruptions on a scale greater than those which affected Fermanagh and Tyrone during the week.
“The company has sought to end this dispute by putting forward a number of proposals, but the key demand from unions that pension reform be deferred is not something that NI Water management have in their power to deliver.
“We would assure customers that all resources at our disposal will be deployed to minimise disruption. These resources are however limited due to the withdrawal of emergency cover as part of the dispute. Over the weekend, the major incident regime which has been in place since before Christmas will continue. This regime has allowed us to largely maintain services across the province. The extent of our infrastructure is such, however, that if the emergency cover which has been withdrawn is not re-instated, our customers will suffer.
“Unfortunately the extent and exact location is something which we cannot predict in advance. Where customers are off supply for more than 24 hours, NI Water will seek to provide alternative water supplies. Our ability to provide these alternative supplies will also be impacted by the industrial action being taken.
“We will continue to work with unions to find common ground, but believe that while the dialogue continues the threat of disruption to our customers should be removed by suspending this action.