Thursday 29 September 2016

IFA levy losses trigger crisis talks with staff

Redundancies feared as financial situation worsens

Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30

The IFA Farm Centre in Bluebell, Dublin.
The IFA Farm Centre in Bluebell, Dublin.

Redundancies could be on the cards at the IFA following a serious deterioration in the organisation's finances.

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Staff were summoned for an emergency meeting yesterday to be briefed on the association's worsening financial situation ahead of a national executive meeting today.

Redundancies were not specifically mentioned by management at the meeting.

However, staff, who number close to 70, were said to be shocked at the revelations, despite it being widely known that revenues from membership and levies have been in freefall since the pay controversy that rocked the lobby group last November.

It was the first time the IFA has called such a meeting with staff. The meeting discussed the financial situation at the organisation. Management also revealed some salaries at higher levels will soon be publicly disclosed - but only within bands.

Emotions are also running high among IFA members since the organisation decided to reject ABP's sudden switch to an opt-in system for levies collected at all their plants.

The move by the IFA stops any chance for the farm group to maintain any of the €400,000 in levies the country's largest meat processor was collecting on their behalf.

An internal review of funding mechanisms, which was presented at the last national executive meeting, failed to come up with a better alternative to continue funding the IFA's activities.

"There will be skin and hair flying [at the meeting] because farmers are annoyed that nothing has been done," one national council member told the Farming Independent.

Staff morale is also low, with some claiming "no one is making any decisions" at the top of the organisation.

The search for a new IFA boss continues, nine months after the dramatic departure of the then general secretary, Pat Smith. Mr Smith left the association when members discovered that his remuneration package was worth over €500,000 a year.

A review of IFA staff pay is to be presented to the national executive today. Compiled with external advice, it is expected to reveal the on-going wage levels. No major discrepancies with industry norms were uncovered.

However, last week's move by Larry Goodman's ABP appears to have brought the issue surrounding pay levels for IFA top staff and funding mechanisms to a head.

An online survey of over 1,000 farmers indicated that 75pc would not be prepared to voluntarily 'opt in' to pay the IFA's EIF levy.

Indo Farming

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