Bord na Mona workers win battle to have cars returned
BORD na Mona has lost a battle to cut the company car fleet enjoyed by 165 staff in a bid to slash costs.
Nine middle management workers are set to get back cars, worth more than €13,000 each, that the peat producer took from them last year.
The office-based staff have won a Labour Court case after claiming they were unfairly targeted to give up their vehicles.
Bord na Mona must now reverse its plans and give the cars back before it can begin talks on a new car policy. The State-owned energy supplier took the cars off nine of the 165 staff that enjoys cars, which includes middle and senior management and sales staff.
It claimed it was "unfair" that the nine staff had cars when other workers doing similar jobs did not.
But the Labour Court has found against the company on the grounds that the cars are part of the terms and conditions in the workers' contracts.
The court said it would have to reach an agreement with them before it could abolish the entitlement, in a recommendation just published.
It is understood that Bord na Mona wants to slash costs by withdrawing cars from middle management staff and plans to only give cars to senior management in future.
The company argued that the nine workers' "job size and role" no longer merited them having a car.
It said it had given them plenty of notice before the cars were taken away and it aimed to introduce a "more transparent" car policy.
"The company is facing significant challenges at the moment and needs to put cost-saving measures in place," it argued at the court hearing last month.
It is understood that the nine staff work in departments including finance and IT, and their basic pay is more than €50,000 a year.
Sources said Bord na Mona was originally expected to take back 34 cars and, when it took nine, the reasons were not given to staff.
UNITE rejected an offer by the employer to compensate staff at one-and-a-half times the annual loss, which Bord na Mona estimated to be €10,000 a year.
The union said the cars were "part and parcel" of their total remuneration package and estimated the average yearly loss at a higher figure than Bord na Mona, of €13,316 per worker.
"I would expect the company to restore the cars that were taken away by the leasing company last year, and commence negotiations on a new policy," said UNITE Regional Organiser Dermot Mahon.
"It may want to change its policy, but it is not reasonable to just whip the cars away."
Bord na Mona said it was reviewing the Labour Court recommendation.
It has 2,136 employees and average pay is €44,800 a year.