Scores of jobs under threat with closure of peat briquette factory
One of Bord na Mona's peat briquette factories is to be shut down after sales collapsed over the last four years.
Sixty-nine staff at the Littleton plant in Co Tipperary face the threat of redundancy over the next year as the energy company plans to switch to large scale production of biomass briquettes at Derrinlough, Co Offaly.
The future of another 56 peat harvesters in Littleton are also at risk but Bord na Mona said none of them would be laid-off this year.
The company warned briquette sales have been steadily falling amid unprecedented challenges from changes in customers' habits, carbon tax, i ncreased competition and low oil prices.
Bord na Mona head of fuels Eddie Scaife said: "This has been a very difficult decision following a period of uncertainty for employees.
"We took a great deal of care with this review to ensure that a wide range of factors were taken into account.
"Briquette sales have declined significantly in the past few years as we have encountered unprecedented market, financial and regulatory challenges.
"Ultimately we had to make a decision that ensured we had a business that could survive these challenges and safeguard the biggest number of briquetting jobs."
Derrinlough will be the sole location for future Bord na Mona peat and new biomass briquette production.
Littleton will keep running until next April.
The Bord na Mona Group of Unions said it does not accept the company's decision.
Secretary and Siptu organiser John Regan said: "It will be opposed by our members by all legitimate means including industrial action.
"There have been issues with sales of peat briquettes in the last two years.
"However, our members believe this move is premature and unwarranted, particularly as the plant is also in a process of diversifying its output with the development of a biomass briquette."
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Government should do more to protect workers vulnerable to shifts away from fossil fuel industries.
"Some of the Bord na Mona workers threatened with job losses today are the third and fourth generations of their families working on bogs since the 1940s.
"They have a very proud tradition but are now facing into a different future," he said.
Mr Ryan said the 120 million euro a year that is paid as a levy for peat to be burnt in power plants expires in 2019 and the money should be put into a fund to re-train the bog and briquette workers.