A prominent union official has accused Bord na Mona management of having no interest in finding new roles for workers set to lose their jobs
The ESB last month announced it would close peat-burning power stations in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and Lanesborough, Co Longford, after it failed to secure permission to switch them to biomass power stations.
The decision to close the plants is expected to affect up to 80 jobs in the area, while a further 1,000 Bord na Mona workers who rely on the plants will also be potentially impacted.
The Government recently announced the creation of a six million euro Just Transition fund for the Midlands to combat the job losses.
The funding will support retraining and re-skilling initiatives for workers to find jobs in retrofitting and assist communities and businesses in the area to adjust to low-carbon transition to help create hundreds of jobs to replace those that are lost.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) general secretary Patricia King accused Bord na Mona management of refusing to engage with the union as the company undergoes radical change and of refusing to attend a forum to establish what workers will do next.
It is important to understand that workers and communities across the energy generation sector are being asked to sacrifice their livelihoods, for the greater good of future generations.Patricia King
“We need to get to a place where we can identify the future work available and Bord na Mona management have consistently refused to take part,” she told an Oireachtas Committee on Climate on Wednesday.
“They won’t convene a forum and they have taken a very narrow view. My own belief and judgment now at this stage is that Bord na Mona are on a campaign.
“They have no interest in re-jobbing (sic) anybody. They show no signs of having any dialogue about the future of their workforce.
“These are very serious things that I’m saying, but I’m saying them because I have lots of evidence and very good reason to say it,” she said.
Ms King accused Bord na Mona management of wanting to get rid of unions.
“They wanted to de-unionise (sic) the place. They want to have little engagement, let people out and then decide what rate to pay for any future jobs,” she said.
“Here we are with all of these people who are about to lose their jobs and all of the things that should be happening, and the Bord na Mona management are absolutely point blank refusing to engage in anything,” she said.
“It is important to understand that workers and communities across the energy generation sector are being asked to sacrifice their livelihoods, for the greater good of future generations. That creates a moral and social imperative for policymakers to ensure that they do not become the collateral damage of decisions taken at a distance,” she said.
Ms King said Bord na Mona and the Midlands will serve as a litmus test for Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy.
“If workers and their communities are abandoned to the market, then support for the process will evaporate and opposition will grow,” she said.
Bord na Mona chief executive Tom Donnellan said the company was embarking on a transition phase towards becoming a leading provider of renewable energy in Ireland by 2026 and would bring forward an end to energy peat.
He said they are developing new businesses “to support the low carbon economy”, and Bord na Mona has identified potential to create up to 500 jobs across the Midlands in the medium term.