Over 200 Bord na Móna workers fear permanent loss of jobs

Employees from division that supplies peat to ESB power plants

Bord na Móna’s plant in Edenderry.

Bord na Móna’s plant in Edenderry.

 

More than 200 Bord na Móna workers fear the permanent loss of their jobs after the Covid-19 crisis forced the State company to release them on full pay.

Bord na Móna temporarily released 230 permanent and seasonal workers from the division that supplies peat to ESB power plants on Tuesday but pledged to keep them on full pay with the aid of the Government’s wage subsidy.

However, their trade union, Connect, argued that the workers still faced losing their jobs after the pandemic has passed as the planning appeals board, An Bord Pleanála, is due to decide the future of peat-burning electricity plants next month.

Bord na Móna supplies peat to ESB to generate power at Shannobridge in Co Offaly and Lanesboro in Co Longford, which have sought planning permission to change to combining this fuel with wood to produce electricity.

An Bord Pleanála is due to decide on May 12th if regulations on peat burning allow the plants to change to burning it with biomass - wood from trees grown for the purpose - which is seen as key to both generators’ futures.

Connect regional secretary, Darren Erngey, said that Bord na Móna has refused to allow workers in the energy division take voluntary redundancy pending the planning board’s decision.

Jobs

“This means that there is a high likelihood that there could be no jobs for the laid-off workers to return to once the Covid-19 emergency is concluded,” Mr Erngey argued.

A Bord na Móna spokesman stressed that the company had not laid off the workers, but released them on full pay. He said that this included the energy division’s management, permanent employees and 80 seasonal workers.

The company said that the move was a response to falling electricity prices, the “complete cessation” of peat sales to the ESB plants and tumbling revenues from its own Edenderry generator .

A statement said that Bord na Móna decided to release the workers following a board meeting yesterday and the conclusion of talks that began on April 9th.

“The company will continue to engage with employees and review the ongoing challenges caused by the Covid-19 crisis,” it added.