Union representatives applied the first pressure to the North’s new devolved administration by demanding a halt to plans to cut 500 water industry jobs.
With a British government-owned company announcing the workforce reductions as part of a three-year cost-cutting initiative, they have called for urgent talks with Conor Murphy, Regional Development Minister at Stormont.
Albert Mills of the Transport and General Workers Union claimed he was given no warning before the direct rule ministers left their posts.
“It seems they will all be compulsory and they’re all going to hit the industrial workforce,” he said.
“The infrastructure, as they keep telling us, is falling down around our ears, but these jobs will go to the private sector and contractors.
“That’s what we believe, as happened in England and Wales in the privatisation.”
Under its new strategic business plan Northern Ireland Water, which started operating in April, will bring staff numbers down to about 1,400.
Industrial, engineering, scientific and administration divisions are all expected to be affected.
The company insisted it has been able to transfer nearly 300 staff back to the civil service in a bid to minimise the impact.
But Mr Mills was outraged that the plans were disclosed yesterday, as the power-sharing coalition headed by Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin chief Martin McGuinness was being installed.
“Northern Ireland can ill do with losing 500 jobs to the economy,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
“We would be seeking an immediate meeting with the new minister and asking him to stop this.
“This is ridiculous because the jobs and the work will still have to be done.
“What we fear is that work will be passed on to contractors and it will be a cheap option.”