Richard Bruton, ESB and Bord na Mona accused of 'fiddling while Rome burns'

Richard Bruton, ESB and Bord na Mona accused of 'fiddling while Rome burns'

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Burton, the ESB and Bord na Móna have been accused of “fiddling while Rome burns” by Siptu organiser Willie Noone.

“From the members' point of view and the workers' point of view, they say, forgive the pun, they're fiddling while Rome is burning because as they’re consulting and considering nothing is going to be burning shortly. Something needs to be done shortly,” he told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Noone warned that more than 1,000 jobs could be lost in a six month period because of recent decisions by Bord na Móna and the ESB.

The group of unions representing Bord na Móna workers is seeking a meeting with the company on Friday following the annual general meeting on Wednesday.

The company does not appear to know what it’s going to do, so the unions would prefer to wait “so they can get their heads together” and then talk on Friday, he said.

Mr Noone added that he hoped that Bord na Móna will appeal the decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for the ESB power plant in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly to redevelop in order to burn biomass rather than peat.

The west Offaly power station had sought permission to continue to burn peat past a December 2020 deadline until 2027, while it transitioned to rely on biomass fuel.

However, he said that the union would concur with some of the points made by An Bord Pleanála in its decision.

We believe Bord na Móna could have made a better effort, along with the ESB in showing more clarity where the biomass was coming from, what was put in place to have a consistent supply of sustainable biomass into the future.

“Quite clearly it is time for the government to intervene and quite clearly it's time for Richard Bruton to step up to the plate. He has made a number of announcements in the last 12 months, none of which has actually happened.

“For example on October 25 last, he said that the company would be consulting with the representatives about the terms of redundancy packages and a programme for the future, that never actually happened.

“He also said on the same date that an application would be prepared for the European Adjustment fund in conjunction with the trade unions, now he said that will happen, that was nine months ago and nothing happened.

“We know a question was asked on 26 February in the Dáil, to Minister Halligan, he said 'my officials are considering making application for funds for exactly a problem like this’ and that was five months ago. Still nothing has happened.

“Workers are going to be on social welfare, they're going to be impoverished.

“In the worst-case scenario, there's still plenty of work available even if power stations close down. Because there's thousands and thousands of hectares of bog that work has to be done on them to comply with legislative obligations. There's plenty of work there for workers.

“No worker should be left on the scrap heap.”

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