Irish National Lottery Sale Finally Moves Forward

Irish National Lottery Sale Finally Moves Forward

The sale of the Irish National Lottery finally seems to be in sight after a Labour Court hearing resolved the ongoing industrial dispute. The sale, which was due for completion in December 2013, is worth €405 million and will see Camelot share ownership with current operators An Post.

The dispute stemmed from An Post employee uncertainties regarding transfer conditions which lead to a ballot on 31st January 2014. The ballot, which focused on job security and compensatory packages, resulted in a dead heat and was therefore referred to the Labour Court. The hearing, which took place two weeks later on Friday 14th February, saw An Post staff vote on revised proposals including a potential job-swap programme and improved assurances over pension rights. This time staff voted to accept the deal by 57 votes to 50, with five abstaining.

While members of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), the largest of the three lottery unions, voted against the revised proposals, the majority of employees backed them. As a result, members of the CPSU are obligated to accept the vote in favour of the transfer. CPSU assistant general secretary Paul MacSweeney said; “...members are disappointed” with the result.

However, John Kelleher, deputy general secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants welcomed the result and said it would enable staff to begin working on the license transfer. The Government is now permitted to sign contracts with the Premium Lottery consortium and reinstate the sale proceedings which have fallen behind schedule. Under the current terms of agreement, €202.5 million must be paid within ten days of signing the contract and the remaining €202.5 million must follow within nine months.

The Government will also be relieved by the favourable ruling as they are keen to see the privatisation of the Irish National Lottery. Much of the proceeds from the lucrative sale have been allocated to fund the National Children’s Hospital and with construction due to begin in 2015, further delays could have been disastrous.

Despite the encouraging ruling, the lottery transfer still faces further obstacles from independent retailers. In a reaction to the improved conditions brought about as a result of the lengthy dispute, retailers are now seeking a one off loyalty payment of €15,000. Tara Buckley, director general of retailer representatives RGDATA, said; “It would seem only fair that if the staff of the National Lottery and the new operators of the lottery are in line for a significant return on the new investment, the retail agents, who play such a central part in the success of the lottery should also be recognised.”

With an estimated 1,500 independent retailers operating in Ireland, the proposal would cost Premier Lotteries a further €22.5 million. So far there has been no response from either An Post or the Premier Lotteries consortium but both will be aiming to prevent any further delays in the deal.

More information on the previous development of the sale is available here.

17th February 2014

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