SDLP Fairer Infrastructure Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has expressed his solidarity with road service workers employed by the Department for Infrastructure.
Staff have begun two weeks of strike action as part of a continued dispute over pay and productivity bonuses.
The department warned that the strike may impact road users, particularly on roads at risk of flooding. Mr Durkan said the consequences of not acting on staff pay would be profound.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The decimation of the budget within the department is impacting heavily on frontline services - nowhere are those pressures felt more than on our road network; from the struggle to properly grit routes last winter to the Swiss cheese network of potholes emerging along our roads.
“The department has laid out in no uncertain terms that current budget allocations will leave them unable to properly maintain their assets and that road maintenance will be reduced to ‘emergency only’ in an effort to save costs. That’s just a snippet of what this budget will mean in real terms and we’re already seeing how those cuts have compromised public safety on our roads.
“Road maintenance staff are currently classed at the lowest pay band within the Civil Service, that’s ludicrous given the value, importance and skilled nature of their work. It’s also difficult to comprehend that the department expected this workforce to meet rising demand on diminishing resources. These workers have to be on call to respond to emergency situations such as flooding, their hours are long and the workload never-ending. Staff are making sacrifices in their personal lives to do their job yet aren’t even being properly compensated to cover household bills.
“The public relies on the efforts of road maintenance workers to improve safety on their daily commutes. This pay dispute must be solved as a matter of urgency, the failure to do so will have long-term consequences for the future of our road infrastructure. Increased disruption and risk of danger on our roads was a reality long before strike action was implemented. Striking workers have my full solidarity, the SDLP will continue to campaign for fair pay and the restoration of the productivity bonus.”