Ibec warns of ‘acute’ disruption if seasonal time shifts are scrapped

MEPs voted in favour of ending the practice of changing clocks in spring and autumn

Ibec said its position was strongly influenced by the likely costs and disruption that any deviation from Greenwich Mean Time would involve. Image: iStock

Ibec said its position was strongly influenced by the likely costs and disruption that any deviation from Greenwich Mean Time would involve. Image: iStock

 

Ending the practice of changing the clocks in spring and autumn could cause “acute” disruption to flights and the movement of goods and people across the island of Ireland, Ibec has warned.

In a submission to the Government, the group called on the Government to “oppose any change to the status quo”.

The Department of Justice has held a public consultation on potentially scrapping the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring and then back again in the autumn. It comes after MEPs this week voted by 410 to 192 in favour of ending the practice of seasonal time shifts.

Ibec has now warned of international transport and logistical challenges if the status quo is changed. There have been particular concerns about Ireland and Northern Ireland existing in different time zones.

“Any change in the existing time differences with other countries will result in significant transport and logistics challenges.

“The disruption caused in the aviation sector will be particularly acute but it would also affect shipping and possibly land transport scheduling with Northern Ireland.

“Dublin Airport is already facing capacity constraints, and potential future more onerous restrictions around flight times could accentuate these challenges. Any change in the time difference with UK-based airports would pose extensive scheduling difficulties and would require a long lead-in time to facilitate planning,” the submission says.

Brexit

Ibec has also warned that it is unclear how other EU countries will respond to the changes and that the timeline of Brexit negotiations makes the UK response particularly uncertain.

“Irish business, therefore, has no line of sight on how any change in Ireland would impact on the time differential with our main trading partners.”

The group, whose membership employs more than 70 per cent of the private sector workforce, said Ireland’s position in the GMT zone was currently an advantage.

This is because it “straddles the Asian and North American time zones and hence business trading hours. This strategic positioning has become more important as the traded services sector continues to grow in economic importance.

“A time change that would alter the existing time differences with other strategic global business hubs, such as Pacific Time Zone of the US, would disrupt existing business processes. The change would involve a significant cost to business and necessitate scheduling and work planning adjustments.”

In summary, the group said that “the Irish Government should currently oppose any change to the status quo. This position should be reviewed if other non-EU countries were to cease seasonal time changes.”

Greenwich Mean Time

It said its position was strongly influenced by the likely costs and disruption that any deviation from Greenwich Mean Time would involve.

“These problems would be particularly acute on the island of Ireland and would pose significant challenges for the all-island economy, including the movement of goods and people across the island. It would result in costly disruption to the functioning of the labour market on the island of Ireland and the many thousands of workers who commute to work across the Border.”

The Irish Farmer’s Association has also written to the Government on the issue raising concerns about potential differences between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

It says that all farmers would be “very concerned should the approach to our daylight settings differ from those of the UK and Northern Ireland”.

“In light of the facts that Northern Ireland forms part of the island of Ireland, and that the agricultural sector in both parts of the island is intricately linked, there cannot be any difference in time zones and, therefore, timing of any clock changes between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he would not “countenance” Northern Ireland being in a different time zone to the rest of Ireland.