I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 127 together.
Work on the implementation of the restructuring of Aer Rianta, including the drafting of necessary amending legislation, is proceeding in my Department. This work is led by a steering group comprising officials of my Department and the Department of Finance, Aer Rianta management and advisers retained respectively by my Department and the company.
I will shortly announce the remaining members of the boards designate for Dublin and Cork airports. As in the case of the Shannon board, which I announced in October, the new boards for Dublin and Cork will bring together people of the highest calibre combining international, national and regional expertise. The new boards designate for the three airports will be closely involved with the work of the steering group in bringing about the transition to independent and autonomous authorities for the three State airports.
Following a public tender process conducted in accordance with EU public procurement procedures, my Department engaged a consortium of advisers comprising PricewaterhouseCoopers, Matheson Ormsby Prentice and a UK based transport consulting firm, Steer Davies Gleave, to advise on all aspects of the preparation, procedures and implementation of the restructuring of the State airports. The matters being addressed by the advisers include advice on corporate finance, accounting and tax issues, economic regulation of airports and associated legal advice.
The advisers have not been engaged to produce a report but rather to provide expert advice on the options for giving effect to the establishment of the three new airport authorities, including the optimum mechanisms for allocating airport assets among the three airports. While the precise cost of the advisers will ultimately depend on the level of expert resources necessary to bring this important project to fruition, the consortium tendered an estimated cost of €1.555 million, inclusive of VAT and expenses.
As part of the ongoing work on the implementation of the Government decision, detailed financial projections for the three airports will be prepared over the coming weeks. Clearly, it is essential that each of the new airport authorities will have sound opening balance sheets and that each will be able to trade successfully on a commercial basis in future.
The proposal that the new airport authorities for Shannon and Cork will both commence business free of debt will have a major positive impact on the commercial viability of the two airports. It is proposed that the debts associated with them, including the debt associated with the major new investment programme under way at Cork Airport, will remain with Dublin Airport. I am also giving detailed consideration to the implications for Dublin Airport of absorbing the debt of Shannon and Cork, as envisaged. In this regard, the issue of other significant assets of the Aer Rianta group, such as Great Southern hotels and Aer Rianta International, is being carefully examined. The preparation of revised and updated financial projections will not inhibit the commercial freedom and responsibility of the new airport authorities, when formally appointed, to develop strategic and business plans, including marketing strategies, for each of the three airports.
In tandem with this ongoing work, senior officials of my Department and I will maintain the process of full engagement with the Aer Rianta unions to deal with issues of concern to workers in the company arising from the implementation of the Government decision. In correspondence with ICTU and the Aer Rianta unions over the past fortnight, I have conveyed assurances and clarifications on the protection of the tenure and terms and conditions of employment of Aer Rianta workers in the context of the three new independent authorities. I have also reaffirmed my willingness to underpin this undertaking by including a provision in the amending legislation being drafted which will ensure that the existing workers in the company will not be brought to lesser terms and conditions of employment than they enjoy. I am pleased that SIPTU decided to call off the threatened industrial action at the airports on Thursday last and look forward to a resumption of the discussions between the unions and my Department and under the chairmanship of the Labour Relations Commission at which these and other issues of concern to the unions can be further debated.
I have stated in recent correspondence with trade union representatives that the appropriate way to reflect my commitment to maintain the security and quality of employment of Aer Rianta workers in the aftermath of restructuring remains to be finalised between my Department and the trade unions. I have suggested that the talks being chaired by an official of the Labour Relations Commission provide the appropriate forum for this.