Fears expressed for multiple job losses at Bord na Mona in Offaly

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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news@offalyexpress.ie

Fears expressed for multiple job losses at Bord na Mona in Offaly

Fears expressed for multiple job losses at Bord na Mona in Offaly

An Offaly County Councillor has raised concern over possible job losses within Bord na Mona in Offaly and the wider Midlands region. 

Speaking at the council's monthly meeting on Monday, October 15, Cllr Eamon Dooley claimed that workers had become aware of a number of upcoming job losses in Bord na Mona. 

Addressing the meeting of councillors and council management, Cllr Dooley said, "it's more bad news" and suggested the "writing was on the wall" three years ago when Bord na Mona announced it would end peat production by 2030. 

Cllr Dooley said he had spoken to a group of workers in the days prior to the meeting, and based on that interaction said he expected the announcement of further job losses to come "before year's end."

He tabled a motion, which was supported broadly by his fellow councillors, to set up a working group to look into the "possibilities out there" to resolve possible job losses and the future of the workforce in Offaly. He also said that the council needed to know timelines from Bord na Mona and what funding is out there to replace or diversify jobs lost.

In response to the fears expressed at council level, Bord na Mona told the Offaly Express, "Bord na Móna began a journey of de-carbonisation over a decade ago. In 2008, Bord na Móna committed to not opening new bogs under A New Contract with Nature. In 2015, Bord na Móna announced it would exit Peat for energy purposes by 2030. During this time, we have also increased the co-firing of Peat and Biomass in Edenderry Power Station at a rate now in excess of 40%."

"There is an ongoing process of engagement with employees and the Group of Unions regarding the strategy to de-carbonise which means we will be harvesting less peat over the coming decade as we exit Peat for energy purposes, as announced back in October 2015."

"This engagement process has not reached any conclusions regarding the final shape of the peat business either in terms of employee numbers or operations. As this process is ongoing the company will not be making any further comment at this time," a spokesperson added. 

At Monday's council meeting, representatives from across the county and party lines supported Cllr Dooley's motion. Cllr John Leahy said, "we also need a delegation to meet the new Minister following the resignation of Denis Naughten last week. From what's been said here, these job losses are coming down the track fairly lively."

Cllr Noel Cribbin also supported the motion for a working group to meet Bord na Mona and discuss all possible outcomes, saying, "jobs gone in Bord na Mona would have serious implications if they came in Edenderry with the Power Station there."

Cllr Tommy McKeigue insisted that, "Bord na Mona should be part of any working group," going on to say, "there's no point in us sitting around here talking to the wind."

Cllr Peter Ormond suggested there was "no opportunities beyond peat production and Bord na Mona jobs in many areas, so a meeting with the Minister is essential as soon as possible."

Cllr John Clendennen cautioned, "nothing is official yet so we should meet Bord na Mona to discuss it further," adding, "Bord na Mona's transition and a general move to renewable energy present new opportunities for energy generation in Offaly."

Cllr Dervill Dolan suggested that although nothing was official, "people on the ground often get word on what's going on and coming down the tracks fairly early on."

Cathaoirleach Danny Owens said, "this is not good news, and anything we need to do with delegations and so on, we should do it."

Responding, Chief Executive of Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney, also cautioned against "scaremongering among employees" in the absence of an official announcement from Bord na Mona. 

The Chief Executive said she has met with the new Bord na Mona Managing Director and CEO Tom Donnellan to discuss the possibility of a working group being established to deal with the futureproofing of jobs and the upskilling of people in the county. 

Speaking at a meeting earlier this year, Anna Marie Delaney suggested Offaly County Council was "best placed to head up just such a working group," saying Offaly County Council and councillors could be joined on the steering group by the likes of the Laois-Offaly Education and Training Board, The Department of Social Protection, the Regional Skills Forum, as well as Bord na Mona itself.

It's thought that these stakeholders could be involved in any upskilling or re-training necessary to ensure long-term employment in Offaly after peat production is ceased in the coming years. 

Speaking this week, Anna Marie Delaney said during her meeting with Tom Donnellan, it was mentioned that Bord na Mona's new strategy is currently being written. It was suggested that this strategy, which would outline the peat and renewable plans for the company into the future, will be available "later in the Autumn."

"That will reveal more," she said, while she also agreed with a delegation from the council meeting the Minister. Offaly County Council management agreed to write to Bord na Mona and the Minister's office.