ESB unions meet today to consider strike ballot

22 November 2013 11:36

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ESB unions meet today to consider strike ballot

The group of unions meet this morning to consider the outcome of a recent ballot where nearly nine out of every 10 ESB workers voted for industrial action.

The ESB group of unions and bosses at the energy supplier, where the average wage is almost €65,000, have been negotiating over how to deal with a €1.6bn hole in the semi-state body's pension scheme.

Any power outages would severely disrupt business in the key period before Christmas and cause havoc for families and the elderly as the cold December weather hits.

Secretary of the group of unions Brendan Ogle played down the threat of strike action last night and said it would only occur if the company fails to account for the €1.6bn hole, despite staff voting overwhelmingly for industrial action.

Should union management opt for strike action, notice would most likely be served on the ESB on November 29, and the strike would follow once the notice expires on December 13 – in the middle of the key Christmas shopping period.

Eamon Timmins, spokesperson for Age Action Ireland, which represents elderly people across the country, said any strike action and subsequent power outages would also have a devastating effect on the "most vulnerable people" in society.

"There are also older people who are quite frail in this cold weather who depend on electricity for heating and cooking and we need to identify these people very quickly so this dispute doesn't result in extreme hardship and illness and possibly fatalities," he added.

He said he presumed the HSE would have a contingency plan in place for those dependent on electricity to operate life-saving machines like ventilators and respirators.

The chief executive of the Dublin City Business Improvement District, Richard Guiney, called on ESB staff and union management to consider the consequences of industrial action.

He said the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court should be used to ensure businesses were not affected in this "critical period".

"I would sincerely hope there won't be a strike. We represent around 2,500 businesses, the vast majority of which are involved in retail and hospitality, and in the next couple of weeks they'll make between 30pc and 40pc of their annual turnover.

"We would ask people (ESB staff) to think about the consequences of strike action and to think about workers in other fields who need these vital couple of weeks to sustain their own employment into next year," he warned.

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the union would "be holding the country to ransom" if it pursued industrial action.

Mr Ogle said both the mandate for strike action and a request by ESB to enter into further dialogue would be considered at this morning's meeting.

He said he hoped that because any strike action required seven days' warning, there would be "enough time for the employer to see sense and return to proper accounting for the pension's scheme".

"We will only find ourselves in a (strike) situation if the employer failed to resolve the situation," he added.


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