ESB staff union vows stern opposition to move

Thu, Feb 23, 2012, 00:00

REACTION:STAFF IN the ESB may ballot for industrial action over Government plans to sell off part of the company. The Unite trade union, which represents electricity workers, said that “as things stand today, any sale will be opposed using every means at our disposal”.

Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “Once we know more detail we will, if needed, hold a ballot for industrial action.”

He said the union had consulted members over time and it was “fundamentally opposed to the fire sale of State assets in order to mistakenly right the wrongs of the banking disaster”.

Meanwhile the Impact trade union said any sale of Aer Lingus or Coillte assets risked damage to the Irish economy.

Impact national secretary Matt Staunton said: “Ireland is heavily dependent on international connectivity. In addition to the transatlantic and Dublin/Cork/Shannon routes to London and other European cities, the airline’s Heathrow slots are among its considerable strategic assets.

“Although the sale of the Government’s stake would not mean that flights on these routes would stop overnight, it would leave the Government powerless to influence future route changes or to stop an undesirable future change in ownership.”

Mr Staunton also expressed concerns that if Coillte ended up in private ownership new owners would commence an immediate asset-stripping exercise to achieve a quick return on their investment.”

The State’s largest trade union, Siptu, described the Government’s plans to sell some State assets as “a sad day for the Irish people and a tragedy for the Labour Party”.

The union’s general secretary, Jack O’Connor, said it was doubtless that the Labour Party had managed to minimise the proposed sell-off. However, he said, “there was no justification for selling these assets, especially in the present depressed market conditions”.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions said the Government’s plans represented a “bad deal for Ireland”. It said the country could lose control over the national energy sector at a time when energy security was paramount.

The employers group Ibec warned against any early sale of State assets at a level significantly below their long-term economic value. It said the Government should continue talks with the troika in a bid to maximise the proportion of the proceeds that could be reinvested in measures to support job creation. Ibec director general Danny McCoy said: “The Government must ensure that valuable assets are not sold too cheaply to raise cash quickly.”