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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Public told to avoid travel as NI Civil Service joins day of industrial action

Gritter lorry on snow covered road

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) is warning of disruption to many services it provides ahead of the day of industrial action on Thursday 18 January 2024. 

In a statement issued this afternoon, Monday 15th January, a spokesperson for the Department said:

"With cold weather being forecast for this week, the industrial action will cause disruption to our winter gritting service. If the current weather warnings remain in place, we would advise people to avoid travel, if possible, on Thursday, 18 January 2024. 

"Where people need to travel, drivers and other road users will need to take particular care on Thursday and Friday given the potential for icy conditions and ongoing disruption to gritting.

"Where possible, contingency plans are being put in place, but it is expected that there will be widespread disruption on Thursday, which will affect the following services:

  • Winter service – gritting of the road network;

  • Repair of serious infrastructure defects such as manhole collapse or potholes;

  • Prioritisation of assistance to those incidents with most impact to life and property;

  • Response and clear-up operation when there are incidents on the road such as oil spills or unexpected debris;

  • Drainage infrastructure clearing and cleansing;

  • MOT services and driving tests;

  • Strangford Ferry services;

  • Significantly reduce our capacity to respond to flood emergencies;

  • Significant delays in responding to calls to the flood incident line.

"The work done by the Department's staff is a constant, vital but often unseen aspect of the day-to-day functioning of society and its value becomes very visible when it is not available, particularly on the road network. Without people to deliver these essential services, there is limited mitigation possible to preserve the normal protection to road users.

"We will not know the precise number of staff available until the days of strike action which means it could be Thursday morning before the full impact will be known and understood. The Department will, however, only be able to deliver a fraction of its normal gritting service.

"The Department also appreciates the additional impact that other aspects of industrial disputes will have on 18 January. Our colleagues in the Department of Health have advised people to take sensible steps to reduce their chances of requiring their services on the day. Similarly, we would ask that, where possible, people think carefully about whether they need to travel – particularly if temperatures drop below freezing as currently forecast."

The DfI spokesperson added:

"We will be keeping our advice to the public under review as the week progresses and the weather forecast becomes more certain.

"Immediately following the day of action, members of the GMB and Unite unions will continue with a week of industrial action until 26 January 2024. Again, this will impact on gritting services. 

"Winter service, response to road and flood emergencies, clean-up repairs to infrastructure and delays in responding to calls to the flood line are therefore expected to be further disrupted from 19-25 of January. 

"Members of the public should continue to report defects on the road network using NI Direct: Problems with roads and streets | nidirect. At all times anyone travelling on the roads is advised to exercise caution. 

"Given wider pressures on public finances, it has not been possible to make a pay offer to staff and the Department acknowledges the deep frustration of staff at this situation. We look forward to the resolution of this situation and apologise for any inconvenience to the public in the meantime."

The scheduled gritting network includes 107 routes comprising of 7,000km of road across Northern Ireland.


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