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Soaring fuel prices: Building sites face ‘strike’ shutdown, while concerns raised about school transport

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Private operators say the Government must intervene in the same way it did during the pandemic in providing immediate funding help to various sectors

Private operators say the Government must intervene in the same way it did during the pandemic in providing immediate funding help to various sectors

Private operators say the Government must intervene in the same way it did during the pandemic in providing immediate funding help to various sectors

One of the country’s main construction unions has warned that “sites will come to a halt” from next week due to soaring fuel costs.

Irish Plant Contractors Association (IPCA) members employ more than 40,000 truck drivers and digger and machinery operators.

The union said its members were responsible for the movement on every building site in the country, employing more than 140,000 construction workers in total.

The IPCA said its members would stop “all works next week” because fuel prices had almost tripled recently without sufficient relief from Government.

It has argued that cuts to the price of petrol, diesel and green diesel do not go far enough, and members can no longer afford to fill the machines.

“One contractor with 400 digger machines has seen his fuel costs soar from €300,000 per month to over €500,000 per month based on the diesel costs rising in just one week,” the IPCA said in a statement.

“The paltry 2c per litre discount (on green diesel) to these businesses is just not viable and will lead to the closure of building sites from next week.”

The IPCA has argued that contractors are “tied into” agreements with developers and bear the brunt of rising costs because the prices of jobs have already been agreed.

Chief executive Brian Coogan said this was happening across the board and that businesses were operating at a loss.

“We’re asking the Government to try and put some curbs on the suppliers that are selling fuel around the country. Green diesel is at €1.83. In January it was 0.62 cent,” he added.

Mr Coogan said his union would make a “concerted effort” to engage with government officials this weekend to avoid the strike.

Meanwhile, the spiralling cost of fuel is putting school bus services at risk, coach operators warned.

The transport industry is concerned generally about the impact of rising prices on the sector, but school buses are seen as vulnerable.

School transport operates on tight margins, and companies are tied to contracts that do not allow for increased costs to be recovered.

Private coaches account for 90pc of school bus journeys.

The Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) has raised the cost of fuel with Bus Éireann and government departments, saying the measures implemented this week fall short of what is needed to address inflation.

Executive member Feargal Barton said the additional burden could put some companies out of business.

Each school transport operator has an individual contract, which generally lasts for five years, but there is no need to renegotiate contracts in the short term, Mr Barton said.

“They could remain in situ, but we are looking for a special intervention to be put in place, something like they did with Covid, when an allocation of money was set aside for cleaning and PPE equipment.”

Bus operators needed the extra revenue to cover higher fuel costs, not to make profits.

“If nothing happens between now and June, you may see a huge number of operators handing back their contracts,” Mr Barton added.

The Department of Education said it was considering, in consultation with other the implications increasing fuel costs may have on the provision of school transport

A Bus Éireann spokesperson said they were aware of concerns regarding the sharp increase in fuel prices.  

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that when the Government made the decision to cut excise duty, it knew it would “not cover the full cost”.

He described the market as “incredibly volatile”.


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