GSE 02-22 eir Fibre Networks Ireland Announcement



You will be aware, eir announced a joint venture partnership with a French investment company, InfraVia Capital Partners for its access fibre broadband network. The new subsidiary company, Fibre Networks Ireland (FNI), will be launched later this year, subject to competition approval.

In effect, eir has sold 49% of this valuable asset, the fibre broadband network, to this company which will have shared ownership of the access fibre network. The company claims the business rationale is to achieve an accelerated rollout of high-speed internet to an additional 50k homes, but it is not clear how this will be achieved and whether the proceeds received from the sale will come into eir’s coffers, although press speculation would suggest a windfall for the owners.

Understandably, this has raised important questions of concern for our members, to say nothing of the surprise expressed by many, that a development such as this would take place during the CEO transition and consequential managerial flux. Whatever about the business sense and timing of this venture, the more concerning aspect to the announcement, is that it was made without the courtesy of any prior consultation or discussion with the CWU.  As a longstanding key stakeholder in this business, representing workers, that the company claim they value, it is unacceptable that staff and their representatives would be ignored in this way.

This announcement poses many questions at this time, and I am sure it has provoked a level of concern and disquiet among our members in the access network side. Following discussions with the company, I have been assured this development will not affect your terms and conditions. The employment status of eir staff will not change in anyway. To put it in simple terms, eir will provide support and services to FNI to build, maintain and rollout the network through either their own staff or Circet but that in either case, these staff remain in their current employment and their management structures remain unchanged. Notwithstanding these assurances, it seems certain there will still be significant concerns for our members in the Networks area.

Proper consultation and agreement are essential to the CWU’s ongoing support and co-operation for such significant changes. Indeed, it is my intention to meet with the Chairperson and new CEO over the coming weeks to relay the Union’s concerns and I will be seeking to put in place a process whereby the Union has meaningful consultation on all matters affecting CWU members. We have demonstrated our long-term commitment to this Company, but this should not be taken for granted.

An important point to note is that the creation of FNI is subject to competition approval and nothing can proceed until consent for the deal is provided. Rest assured the CWU will be keeping a close eye on FNI and the approval process to assess whether there are implications for our members and what are the longer-term plans for the ownership of the fibre network.

Some of you will have read the article in the recent issue of Connect that highlighted the prospect of such a deal happening. Although this was denied by the company, it turns out, you can sometimes believe what you read in the papers.

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