Management and unions in the semi-state electricity company have been negotiating over how to deal with a €1.6bn hole in the company’s pension scheme.
And union officials have threatened power outages in the run-up to Christmas, which would be catastrophic for businesses.
Meanwhile, independent.ie can reveal that the ESB staff electricity discount scheme - which has been in operation since 1981 – is available to all full-time staff.
This is “part of [staff] employment terms and conditions,” an ESB spokesperson said.
The scheme provides for a 55 per cent discount against standard unit rates only on electricity consumed up to a maximum of 1,000 units per bi-monthly bill.
A spokesperson for ESB said: “The scheme, not unlike schemes in other Irish and international businesses, offers limited discounts on limited electricity consumption.”
“The staff discount scheme applies a discount to electricity unit charges and that no discount is given against standing charges or the PSO Levy. ESB is fully tax compliant in applying this scheme,” he said.
Based on the ESB’s 2012 annual accounts, the average salary of its employees is €62,000.
Last year, it was revealed that more than 315,000 ESB customers who were behind in their payments in 2011 entered into special arrangements so they could pay off their electricity debt in small instalments.
And more than 400 ESB customers a month agreed to have "pay as you go" meters installed in their homes so they could manage their energy debts and avoid having their power cut off.
This Christmas, retailers face the prospect of a disruptive campaign of industrial action involving power cuts during the crucial run-up to Christmas.
After five years of the economic crisis, retailers were hoping Christmas 2013 would mark the start of a real recovery.
ESB union officials say power cuts are "inevitable" in the two weeks leading up to the festive period, unless an 11th-hour solution is found in the dispute over the ESB's pension scheme.
Regarding the threat of industrial action, the ESB spokesperson said: “ESB is disappointed at the outcome of a ballot today by the Group of Unions for industrial action.”
“We acknowledge the potentially serious impact of this situation for customers and we will continue to work to resolve the issues directly with the Group of Unions through the established procedures.”