Friday 26 May 2017

Thousands of jobs under threat

Unions pledge to fight €5bn privatisation of major semi-state enterprises

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

THOUSANDS of jobs will be under threat if the Government orders a €5bn sell-off across the commercial semi-state sector.

Workers at the state's most valuable assets -- including the ESB and Bord Gais -- face an uncertain future in the wake of the new McCarthy report.

But jobs at one of the largest commercial semi-state employers, An Post, with its huge workforce of 10,000, should be safe for now as a sale is not recommended.

It may be at least a year before any of the semi-states are on the market, but unions have threatened to fight their privatisation or break-up.

The report recommends selling large sections of the ESB, which employs more than 7,700 workers, and Bord Gais, which has more than 1,000 staff.

It also recommends putting Bord na Mona, which employs 2,136, on the market, and to sell forestry board Coillte, which has a 1,170-strong workforce, although their peat and forested lands should stay in state ownership.

McCarthy says the Government should consider the privatisation of airports. Dublin Airport Authority employs more than 2,000 and its overseas business has 584.

It also says the sale of Dublin Bus, with a workforce of over 3,000, should be considered and recommends selling the CIE tour business, which has 26 employees.

The National Stud, which employs 75 people, described the recommendation that it should be put on the market as "disheartening".

One union vowed to fight the break-up of the ESB with "every means at its disposal".

"The value to Ireland of the ESB has been built up over generations," said Unite regional officer Richie Browne.

It urged the Government to swiftly reject "sacrificing a vital infrastructural asset on the altar of the broken banks".

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said the report had "little to offer". General secretary David Begg welcomed the report's finding that the ESB and Bord Gais transmission networks, the most valuable of the 18 semi-state company assets, should remain in public ownership.

But ICTU disagreed that these assets should be transferred to Eirgrid, claiming this would not make any savings.

It also rejected the report's recommendation on the sale of Bord na Mona and Coillte, because they had an "ecological and public amenity remit" and the return would be "minimal".

The largest public sector union, IMPACT, said its possible sale and the report's suggestion that its replanting operations be discontinued would "run down the forestry industry".

The union, which also represents pilots and cabin crew at Aer Lingus, claimed the recommendation that the State sell its 25pc stake in Aer Lingus was at odds with the report's appreciation of the value of its Heathrow slots for business and tourism.

IMPACT national secretary Matt Staunton claimed this echoed "the haste" with which the State sold Eircom assets, which resulted in poor quality broadband services.

Irish Independent

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