Bord na Móna chief hints at widespread job cuts
Donnellan tells unions State company faces ‘dire future’ unless sustainability addressed
An immediate threat hangs over the future of several hundred Bord na Móna workers who supply peat to the West Offaly and Lough Ree power plants.
Bord na Móna chief executive Tom Donnellan has hinted at widespread job losses at the State company.
The Bord na Móna group of unions, which represents most of its 1,600 workers, met Mr Donnellan this week to discuss the company’s ongoing difficulties.
According to a statement from trade union Siptu, which is part of the group, Mr Donnellan warned that if nothing changed within a month Bord na Móna would have to make a “seismic decision” that would not be “good news” for workers.
Mr Donnellan told Siptu, Unite and Connect representatives that unless there was some urgency injected into plans to help the company – set up to exploit peat – to move to more sustainable businesses, Bord na Móna faced a “dire future”.
Willie Noone, group of unions secretary, said on Friday that Bord na Móna was financially precarious, and would have no option but to take “unpopular and decisive action” within a month.
“The group of unions is actively re-engaging with politicians of all parties as it is clear that a resolution to the crisis is in the political arena and, if not resolved, will have devastating consequences for thousands of current employees as well as former workers who depend on Bord na Móna pensions,” Mr Noone said.
He demanded that the Government quickly establish a promised task force meant to tackle the threats to Bord na Móna workers’ jobs, many of which stem from State efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Both face possible closure after December when they will lose cash support paid to them from a State levy on electricity bills. They must begin burning biomass alongside peat to remain viable, but neither has planning permission to do this. An Bord Pleanála refused West Offaly’s application in July, while Lough Ree has yet to apply.
Bord na Móna spokesman Pat Sammon said: “The company is currently awaiting decisions in relation to the future operations and plans for ESB’s West Offaly and Lough Ree power stations. Both stations are supplied with peat by Bord na Móna.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said that Minister Richard Bruton has met Bord na Móna’s workers and board, as well as midlands TDs and Senators.
She pointed out that the Government was working on several “strands” to provide alternative jobs for the company’s workers. These included projects to restore bogs and regional development initiatives.
The spokeswoman noted that following Government requests the European Union had included the midlands in its Platform for Coal and Other Carbon Intensive Regions in Transition, which supports areas hit by moves to tackle climate change.