Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 17:04 UK

NI water company to shed 200 jobs

Dripping tap
200 people are to be made redundant

Two hundred people are to lose their jobs at Northern Ireland Water (NIW).

The government-owned company said most of the jobs would be cut over the next few months. NI Water aims to reduce its workforce from 1,700 to 1,500.

The Unite trade union claimed workers were victims of a company policy which favoured using an increasing number of private contractors.

However, NIW chairman Chris Mellor said the job losses were necessary to control costs.

"Everyone wants to see us improve the efficiency and service of NIW so this year we are embarking on a major programme to improve productivity in the business and that will entail us going from about 1,700 last year down to about 1,500 this year," said Mr Mellor.

Unite said more than 50% of the company's water and sewerage work had been farmed out to private contractors.

The union said it would continue to oppose the job losses.

"They didn't talk about controlling costs when they gave their chief executive a quarter of a million pound handshake for going away, so that argument doesn't hold up at all," said Unite regional organiser Albert Mills.

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