Redundant car park staff say it’s the end of an era

TWO long-serving car park staff in Banbridge will be made redundant this week as they are replaced by machines in a cost-cutting measure.

The Department of Regional Development announced recently that the Downshire Place car park will become a pay and display area later this month, with the result that Eugene Rooney and James McFadden will clock out for the last time on Friday.

Both local men - Eugene from Banbridge and James from Loughbrickland - said the installation of the pay and display machines would be “the end of an era”.

The move will remove the personal touch according to Eugene, who has many fond memories of more than a decade supervising the car park.

“Quite a lot of people have said to us they don’t like the machines,” the 61-year-old told the Leader. “I have always enjoyed meeting people and having conversations with different people who would use the car park every day.

“We have regular users of the car park but we’ve also had a lot of visitors over the years and it’s that personal touch I felt was important.”

Eugene said he was often able to help those who were new to the town, or even those who found themselves in difficulty with their cars.

“Some people who didn’t know the town would ask where certain things were or what to visit or maybe I’d recommend somewhere they could eat,” he said. “There was a lady one time who couldn’t start her car so I was able to let her know where the nearest mechanic was.”

With the news coming as it is revealed Translink’s Chief Executive Catherine Mason will enjoy a pay rise, Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has slammed the supposed cost-saving move.

“I’m aware of DRD employees in my constituency who work at the carpark across from the health centre being made redundant,” said Mrs Kelly.

“About one third of this carpark is free but will soon have charges introduced and staff from local businesses will have to pay £3.60 per day. More seriously, two carpark workers have been told they will be made redundant to be replaced by meters. There needs to be a political decision made about the wages for the top personnel at government organisations and public bodies.

“Indeed, the £26,000 rise due to pension contributions is comparable to an extra nurse on a hospital ward or a teacher in our classrooms, or indeed saving jobs for local carpark staff.”