Questions remain about cutbacks at Bord na Móna

Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has said there are number of outstanding questions about cutbacks at Bord na Móna, the company’s financial future and job security for staff.

Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has said there are number of outstanding questions about cutbacks at Bord na Móna, the company’s financial future and job security for staff.

Deputy Cowen was commenting following a meeting between the Bord na Móna Chief Executive Gabriel D’Arcy, the Minister for Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and public representatives at Leinster House on Wednesday, September 26.

Speaking afterwards, Deputy Cowen said, “While I welcome the fact that the Minister finally agreed to facilitate this meeting, it is disappointing that we are still left with so many unanswered questions.

“No one at the meeting could deny the fact that the cuts to staff numbers and staff pay at Bord na Móna were disproportionate. Those on the least pay are being cut by 2 days a week, representing a 40% pay cut, while those on higher pay are losing just 1 day a month, equivalent to a 5% pay cut. Mr D’Arcy himself was unable to deny that this is unbalanced.

“There was also no comment on the company’s pension deficit of €55 million. The staff are extremely concerned that the fund has been permanently depleted. I am seeking further clarification on what plans are in place to recoup these losses.

“In addition to this, I raised questions about the asset management review, and whether or not this review has recommended the closure of certain workshops. I was informed that the company is in consultation with the unions on this. However, questions remain about how extensive these discussions are.

“I also asked the Minister to use his influence and contact Dublin City Council with a view to speeding up the process of the Environmental Impact Assessment on the proposed extraction of Lough Derg Waters for storage at Garyhinch, Portarlington and subsequent distribution to Dublin and the East. This project is being pioneered by Bord na Móna and the company is confident of raising the investment capital of approximately €500 million for the project.

“The Minister has assured me that Bord na Móna will not be put up for sale by the State. However a commercial deal between Bord na Móna and Coillte is being considered, which would see Coillte lands used to facilitate the growth and harvesting of biomass for power stations. While I would very much welcome this mutually beneficial arrangement, it must be noted that Coillte is being considered for sale. I am seeking a guarantee form the Minister that in the event of such a deal between Bord na Móna and Coillte, these valuable assets will remain in the hands of the State.

“I am now writing to Mr D’Arcy and to Minister Rabbitte seeking a detailed response to these questions and other issues that remain unanswered following this week’s meeting. Bord na Móna is a valuable employer and an integral part of the economy in my own constituency of Offaly and in many areas across the country. This meeting was a helpful exercise, and we must continue all efforts to seek the best possible resolution to problems facing Bord na Móna and its staff.”