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BNM’s proposal to layoff up to 230 workers is deplorable – Fitzmaurice

The proposal from Bord na Mona to layoff up to 230 workers in light of the Covid-19 outbreak has been described as deplorable by independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

It is understood that BNM is considering the proposal to temporarily lay-off up to 230 workers – both seasonal and permanent – involved in the process of supplying peat to the power stations in Shannonbridge, Lanesboro and Edenderry.

Commenting on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “Given developments in recent weeks regarding the plants in Shannonbridge and Lanesboro, it is deplorable that BNM is now considering laying off up to 230 workers – during a national crisis.

“In recent years, words like ‘just transition’ and ‘fair play to workers’ have consistently been pushed out into the public domain by the country. However, it is now apparent that these were just buzzwords used by the company in order to kick the can down the road.

“If you look back, we were promised a report on the Just Transition by the end of the first quarter of this year – but nothing has been forthcoming.

“Seasonal and permanent workers involved in the production and supply of peat are basically being cast on the rubbish heap if BNM pushes ahead with this proposal.

“It is understood that the proposed layoffs would take effect from the end of this month, with letters currently being prepared in order to be issued by post.

“The hierarchy within BNM needs to clarify who is taking the hit as a result of the losses incurred as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak? Have senior management or other employees taken a wage decrease in order to share the burden? Or are the workers on the bog being asked to carry the entire load?

“BNM is also apparently awaiting confirmation on whether it is eligible for the Government’s Wage Subsidy Scheme in order to keep on the other permanent workers involved in the process of supplying peat to the various power plants at 80% of their basis pay during a 39-hour week. This is despite the Government encouraging employers to maintain wage levels at 100%.

“Meanwhile, An Bord Pleanala is continuing to drag its feet on the decision which will determine whether BNM can harvest peat on its bogs at all this summer. This decision is due in mid-May.

“As well as this, workers who are actively trying to leave the company are being forced to wait longer – as no decision will be made on applications to the Voluntary Redundancy Scheme until after An Bord Pleanala makes its announcement.

“I am calling on Minister Richard Bruton to intervene in this situation. At the very least, the laying off of any employees should not be considered until the middle of May when An Bord Pleanala’s decision will paint a clearer picture.

“By then, there should also be clarity on whether BNM can qualify for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and progress can be made on the voluntary redundancy applications.

“It is non-sensical laying off workers who wish to carry on, whether others are actively seeking to leave.

“We need to keep as many people in employment during these uncertain times as possible. And even though Minister Bruton may like to see the end of BNM, he has to stand by the ordinary workers and ensure that they are treated fairly.

“Initially, it was pledged that work would be available until 2028 or 2029. This has continued to fall and fall as new plans or strategies were published. The least the minister and BNM could do is honour the year that these workers were promised that they would be out on the bog

“Many families depend on these jobs to put food on the table. It would be shameful if BNM decided to pull the rug out from under them during this pandemic,” the Roscommon-Galway TD concluded.

Michael Fitzmaurice TD 086-1914565