Wednesday 24 July 2019

Bord na Móna redundancies: 'I've worked at this company for 40 years - it's all I have'

Livelihood: Pat Phelan works for Bord na Móna in Co Offaly. Photo: Ger Rogers
Livelihood: Pat Phelan works for Bord na Móna in Co Offaly. Photo: Ger Rogers

Anne-Marie Walsh

Father of three Pat Phelan (58) has worked as a fitter maintaining turf-cutting machines at Bord na Móna since 1977. He is devastated by news of the job losses.

"Everyone is devastated," he said. "It's going to affect absolutely everybody. They are talking about 17 areas that are not going to be in production next year, and it includes mechanics, machine drivers, supervisors, foremen and all sorts.

"If there's less production, there's less people. Nobody knows exactly who's going to go.

"We're hoping it will be voluntary. But if they don't get enough through voluntary, then what happens?"

He said the fact the average worker at Bord na Móna was in an older age category meant that many would go if there was a good redundancy package.

But nobody knows what the terms are yet.

"I've not heard any word on what the package will be," he said. "There was one when Littleton (peat briquette plant) closed, but it may not be suitable for this situation."

Pat, who lives in Doon, Co Offaly, services machines including excavators that load the peat.

"I served my time at Bord na Móna," he said. "This is momentous for me. My father worked here before me. He started in the 1950s as a general worker and would have cut the turf by hand. He would have been on some of the first bogs in Boora. My uncles would have worked here too."

When asked whether he's optimistic that the company can create the 500 jobs it's promised, he's not so sure. "Those jobs have to be created in a timeframe and I can't see them being created in time for the people who are losing theirs to apply."

He wasn't planning to retire until he was at least 65 and will have to get another job if he leaves. His wife isn't working. "It's going to be devastating to wake up some morning and find you've no job," he said. "I've worked with the lads here for years.

"I have three girls, and two are in college so it's expensive enough," he said. "Of course you're worried. You have to be worried, because Bord na Móna is all I have."

Irish Independent

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