Staff and shoppers had to be evacuated after a fire broke out on the 5th floor of the historic Primark Bank Buildings in the Castle Street/Royal Avenue area of Belfast.
Currently 14 fire appliances and 80 firefighters are attending the blaze which is believed to have started shortly after 11am.
In videos shared on social media, flames can be seen bellowing from lower parts of the building.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue service tweeted saying the incident is likely to continue throughout the day also advising residents and businesses in the City Centre to keep windows and doors closed.
It’s understood the high street store was seeking to hire 100 new employees following an 30,000 sq ft extension to the rear of the property at a cost of £30m.
Motorists are asked not to use Bridge Street, High Street, Castle Street, Queens Street, Royal Avenue and North Street to allow fire crews to deal with the blaze.
Sainsbury’s has announced that it plans to boost the base rate of hourly pay across its stores from £8 to £9.20 as part of a £100m investment plan.
The retailer on Tuesday said that in London, it will increase the hourly rate of compensation to £9.80. The pay rises will mean that Sainsbury’s has increased the base rate of pay by 30 per cent, from £7.08 per hour back in 2015.
“The retail sector has never been more competitive and we know that our customers really value our colleagues and the excellent service they provide in our shops,” Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts said. “We believe the proposed changes will set us up to run the best shops in the industry, delivering the best possible service for our customers.”
As part of the investment, Sainsbury’s said that it would offer all of its 130,000 store staff new contracts with the aim of ensuring “consistency and fairness across all stores, regardless of age or length of service”.
It said that it would streamline operations, by reducing the number of role types from 22 to five: trading assistant; food services assistant; online assistant; general merchandise and clothing assistant; and services assistant. I will also get rid of a discretionary bonus scheme for hourly paid workers, and paid breaks.
Some workers currently get a discretionary bonus that’s performance linked, though not all. Breaks had up until now been paid and while workers will still be entitled to take breaks in compliance with the law, those will no longer be paid. A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said that many other UK retailers already don’t pay staff for breaks.
The company said that “a small proportion of colleagues may be adversely impacted by these proposals” and that to support these it “plans to make top-up payments for 18 months to ensure that no colleague earns less than they do today during this time”.
A consultation on the proposed changes begins on Tuesday and will last over the coming months. If the plans are approved, staff will get the new rate of pay from September onwards, Sainsbury’s said.
Trade union Unite responded by saying that, for workers, the proposal does not look attractive.
“Our members will have to make a number of 'sacrifices' to secure this rate of pay which includes the removal of paid breaks and Sunday premium pay, as well as a number of changes to the attendance policy,” Bev Clarkson, the union’s acting national officer for food and drinks, said.
“Unite believes these ‘strings’ will offset any rise in basic pay. We will be holding a consultative ballot of our members at the end of the month,” she added.
“We are recommending rejection and will decide on the next steps after our members have expressed their views in the consultative ballot, which should be known by the end of April.”
One of Europe’s leading airlines, easyJet has confirmed a milestone for expansion at its Belfast base, with the introduction of an A320 aircraft- the sixth aircraft to be positioned at the airline’s Northern Ireland base.
From summer 2018, easyJet say they will operate more than 32 flights per day between Belfast and London.
An additional 6,000 seats has also been added for routes this winter.
The airline company will introduce a new A320 aircraft which is scheduled for delivery in June 2018, this new aircraft will remain based in Belfast throughout the year.
UK Commercial manager for easyJet, Ali Gayward said: "We are absolutely delighted to be celebrating further expansion at Belfast Airport. The addition of another aircraft will help us to deliver long term, sustainable growth at the base providing passengers with a greater range of destinations, all with low fares and great service.
"easyJet is the largest airline in Northern Ireland and we have been committed to Belfast airport for over 19 years. We are proud to have carried over 50 million passengers in that time."
Graham Keddie, Managing Director at Belfast International Airport, said: "We are pleased once again to acknowledge easyJet's strong focus on developing the UK market by adding a sixth aircraft to their Belfast base.
"As Northern Ireland's leading airline they continue to be a strong supporter of the local economy creating even more capacity and choice for Northern Ireland consumers.
Belfast International Airport is set to become the home of a brand new M&S Foodhall on Thursday 19th October, bringing 23 new jobs to the area.
Local residents are invited to celebrate the opening of M&S Aldergrove Foodhall from 10am when Store Manager, Michael Gillen will welcome customers in the store for the first time.
The 2,400 sq ft store will offer an extensive range of M&S’s quality and innovative food and drink, from everyday essentials to everything needed to create show-stopping dishes and desserts. Whether customers are looking for an on-the-go snack as they travel to or from the airport, a special weekend treat or mid-week meal, the new store will offer an exciting range of products.
Michael Gillen has been with M&S for 11 years and will be taking on the role of the new store manager. Michael commented: “The new store launch has been widely anticipated in the local community in Antrim, and we’re looking forward to bringing the best of M&S food and drink to Belfast International Airport and the surrounding area.
“We will be working hard over the next few months to make sure we offer fantastic service, putting our customers at the heart of everything we do and making this store a part of the local community in Antrim. We can’t wait to welcome our first customers through our doors on Thursday 19th October.”
Free parking will be available for customers visiting the store at Belfast International Airport.
M&S Aldergrove in Antrim will be open Sunday to Saturday (7am-11pm) from Thursday 19th October.
Q Radio has held the official opening of its state-of-the-art new headquarters in the heart of Belfast, in a £600,000 investment to renovate and kit out the station’s new base.
Launched by broadcasting icon Tony Blackburn alongside Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Nuala McAllister, the opening event hosted guests from industry, commerce, community and political life to celebrate the beginning of a new era.
The Northern-Ireland wide Q Radio Group cites its ambitious growth plans as the reason for the move.
Now known as ‘QHQ’, the station’s brand new home in the Fountain Centre on College Street boasts three on air studios with Axia Fusion digital desks and a customised hydraulics console desk for the main studio, two news booths and a production studio as well as private offices for senior management, meeting rooms and a collaborative open floor space for the sales and support teams.
Robert Walshe, Managing Director and Head of Programmes at Q Radio said: “We’re thrilled to have welcomed so many people to the official launch of QHQ. It marks the dawning of another new chapter in the Q Radio journey.
“Just 18 months ago we took over a former Belfast commercial radio licence, and we’re very proud of the progress we’ve made in that time.
“I must thank radio legend Tony Blackburn and Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor McAllister for lending their support to us and for their kind words on the night, it was very much appreciated by the wider Q team.”
Mr Walshe continued: “I believe that our ambition as a station is now abundantly clear; we want to achieve greater market share across Northern Ireland and perhaps even beyond. The investment in our new HQ is both a statement of confidence in where we are as a brand, and also of intent, in terms of what we are aiming for.
“Being able to connect with our listeners, delivering the type of content they really want to listen will remain key to our success. That understanding coupled with the strength of our presenter line up and our commercial partnerships is what will allow us to continue to go from strength to strength. It’s a very exciting time for us,” he added.
Speaking at the launch, Tony Blackburn said: “I'm delighted to be in Belfast for the official opening of Q Radio’s new headquarters!
“The space is so impressive and the presenting talent is top class. I've been made to feel so welcome I might relocate to QHQ!”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister said: “Belfast is a city that continues to grow and develop, a ‘Global City’ full of vibrancy, energy and vitality that attracts investors and visitors because it is a great place to work, visit and live.
“I am delighted that Q Radio have backed that belief by investing £600,000 in their new headquarters in the heart of Belfast - the happiest city in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics. Q Radio contributes to that ‘feel good’ feeling by broadcasting at so many events across Belfast so I hope that Q Radio will continue to spread happiness to their listeners, not just in Belfast but further afield.
“Q Radio’s relocation to the heart of Belfast will undoubtedly add to the progressively thriving landscape of the City Centre. My theme during my term as Lord Mayor is Global Belfast and it is investment to this level, as well as recognition from a broadcasting legend like Tony Blackburn, which reinforces Belfast’s position as a global city. I applaud them on their continued commitment to family friendly content across their output and wish them every success in their new QHQ,” she added.
Coinciding with the station’s first broadcast from QHQ in early Summer was the launch of QTV, allowing listeners to watch each show via the Q Radio website.
Visit www.goqradio.com for more news.
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Northern Ireland’s second largest airport, City of Derry airport was forced to cancel all flights today after the building was hit by overnight flooding.
Heavy rainfall on Tuesday night caused a delude of water to enter the building.
A spokesperson for the airport advised passengers not to come to the airport and to contact their airline directly about their flights.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane Council apologised for the inconvenience caused.
Other parts of the north west were also affected, with flooding causing the partial collapse of a bridge in Claudy.
The Met Office has since confirmed that two-thirds of the average rainfall for all of August came down in Northern Ireland on a night.
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Low-cost Irish airline Ryanair has announced three new routes to Poland from its hub at Belfast International Airport.
The airline will start scheduled flights to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw this winter. Ryanair will operate two flights per week to each city.
The news comes after the airline announced seven other new routes from the airport earlier this year.
The airport's managing director, Graham Keddie, said it was "fantastic news".
"It means that this winter should be our busiest ever," he said. He added that the routes "deliver a very comprehensive network to a new and important Polish market".
Kenny Jacobs, from Ryanair, told Good Morning Ulster said there was a demand for more routes to Poland "from the business community".
"Poland, more and more every year, is becoming a popular choice for businesses to locate some of their services," he said.
Mr Jacobs added that the increasing demand for city breaks also influenced the decision.
CHRISTMAS has arrived in Belfast, with the opening of the eleventh annual Christmas Market in the grounds of the spectacular City Hall.
The arrival of the market is one of the most anticipated events of the year in Northern Ireland and the opening of the magical Christmas market coincides with the switching on of the City’s lights.
In the month the market is open, shoppers will be spoilt for choice this year with over 90 wooden chalets showcasing food and gifts from around the world and this year the operators of the Belfast Christmas Market have added five new chalets featuring local arts and crafts including Alana Doherty who entered into a competition online to get a free chalet at this years market.
Young trader Alana spoke of her delight at her business winning a chalet for this years Belfast Christmas Market, “It was absolutely crucial to my business at this stage. This would normally be a three to five year business plan to get to a market of this level. I will be showcasing my new business, Country Ramblings. And it’s all countryside inspired giftware which I bring to life through machine stitch embroidery.”
With all the magic and sparkle Christmas brings, it’s easy to see why the market has sustained more then a decade. Belfast Christmas Market appeals to the young and old and is the place to be seen on the run up to Christmas - the market also guarantees a traditional Irish welcome for all its visitors.
Visitors will also be able to try some of the now infamous culinary delights including a range of products such as olives, cheeses, Belgian chocolates, Italian nougat and French tarts as well as exotic and rare meats from around the World such as Alligator, Impala, Kangaroo and Wild Boar.
While adults can sample culinary delights and warming alcoholic drinks from around the world, the young at heart can visit Santa’s Grotto and help support the Lord Mayor’s charity.
So whether you’re visiting this year’s Belfast Christmas Market from near or far one thing that is guaranteed is a traditional Irish welcome to all.
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