Port firm rebuked over failure to cut costs
A SEMI-state port company employing eight people to service just one ship a week was expected go out of business "within a matter of months" because it failed to cut costs.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday launched a blistering attack on management in the Dundalk Port Company saying:
•It had failed to set up a pension scheme for employees as required by law.
•Refused to make the changes needed to keep it afloat.
•And failed to cut costs despite a drop in business.
The company employed four full-time and four part-time staff, despite only servicing one ship a week, the minister said.
Mr Varadkar also said the company broke the law by failing to set up a pensions fund -- but he admitted he was powerless to take action against management.
"Clearly, the situation that has arisen does not reflect well on the management and board of Dundalk Port Company," he told the Dail Transport committee yesterday.
"I am deeply disappointed with the manner in which the affairs of the company have been conducted, in particular in relation to pension matters.
His comments came after he announced on May 19 that the Dublin Port Company would take over the loss-making port because it could not function independently.
Like all the port companies, the company had an obligation under the Harbours Act 1996 to establish a pension fund.
"However, the company did not meet its obligations, nor did it register with the Pensions Board, which is the statutory regulator for pension schemes. The largest liability on the company's balance sheet is its pension liability, which amounts to over €1m," Mr Varadkar said.
The chief executive and harbour master, Frank Allen, resigned earlier this year. He earned €80,000 a year and did not receive a pay-off. He is not entitled to a pension.
Mr Allen, who is now harbour master in Dun Laoghaire, last night said a pension fund was established for some staff.
"If there's a pension deficit of €1.5m a small company cannot absorb that," he told the Irish Independent.
"There is a pension fund for all new members but there was an issue where there was no fund for two staff. There was no cash flow to set it up."