The Bord na Móna group of unions says it “does not accept” the decision by the company to close its peat briquette plant in Littleton, Co Tipperary, which will lead to the loss of 69 jobs, writes Stephen Rogers.
The company said that it has experienced a very significant decline in the sale of peat briquettes in the last four years and blamed competition, consumer trends, low oil prices, and carbon tax among the contributory factors.
“This fall in sales prompted a review in briquetting operations that was mandated to identify a solution to the challenges that would sustain the business and jobs for the long term,” it said.
The company said the review found that its factory in Derrinlough, Co Offaly, which employs 61 people, would be the “optimum location” for future investment to secure the future of its fuels business.
It said it is planning to begin large-scale production at Derrinlough of its new biomass briquette and will be seeking planning and other approvals in the coming months.
“The report also concluded that the company’s second Littleton facility, would continue production for the coming season and should permanently cease production in April, 2018.” As well as the 69 permanent employees who will lose their jobs there, Bord na Móna said there will be “some impact” on employment in peat harvesting at Littleton where 56 people work.
“While the company is formulating a long-term resource plan for these employees that will be communicated in the near future, the company confirms that no redundancies in this area are being contemplated in the current year,” it said.
“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,” said Eddie Scaife, head of Bord na Móna Fuels.
However, the company’s group of unions said the closure of the Littleton facility will be opposed by the members by all legitimate means, including industrial action.
Group secretary and Siptu organiser, John Regan, conceded there had 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,” he said.
“The decision is part of a wider pattern of choices by the management of Bord na Móna which has led to our members increasingly questioning the entire strategic direction of the board.”
He said it is totally unacceptable that the decision was made by senior management without advance engagement with the Bord na Móna Group of Unions.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.