Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowen has slammed the fact that hundreds of livelihoods in the midlands are left hanging in the balance as a result of Government inaction.
His comments come as Bord na Móna (BnM) intend to lay off over 200 workers on May 1st followed by a further 200 later in mid-May. Deputy Cowen said BnM should consider the Unions proposal to halt the lay-offs. At the very least he is calling on the company to avail of the COVID-19 pandemic wage subsidiary scheme with a 100% top up of base pay.
He explained, “At the very least BnM must agree to a 100% top up of the base pay of workers on the wage subsidiary scheme. This would offer a modicum of security to the hundreds of workers facing an uncertain future.
“I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drop in fuel demand and pricing but instead of assisting the industry the Government are using this as an opportunity to shut up shop on it.
“The peat-fired power stations in Shannonbridge and Lanesborough are both out of commission at the moment and now workers are wondering if they will ever reopen.
“This stress and confusion could have been avoided. An Bord Pleanála, aided and abetted by Government, are still stalling on the peat extraction application which would have seen both of these stations in operation.
“A decision on the application was due on March 18th yet without sufficient reason and without due consideration of the consequences, An Bord Pleanála has said it is extending its timeline for delivery of its decision to May 12th.
“The Government could have sought to amend existing legislation which might have avoided the need for BnM or other large peat harvesting companies from having to make applications to An Bord Pleanála in the first place. They didn’t and now hundreds of livelihoods are on the line.
“All the while the report from the Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey sits on the Minister’s desk – his recommendations are now even more vital and this report must be published immediately,” he concluded.