ESB faces legal and industrial action over pension deficit
More than 400 take part in protest at company’s AGM
ESB workers hold a protest over concerns about pensions outside ESB headquarters in Dublin. The demonstration took place as the company held its annual general meeting inside. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.
The ESB is facing the possibility of legal and industrial action as a row over a €1.6 billion deficit in its staff pension fund deepens.
An estimated 400 of the State-owned energy group’s workers protested today at its head offices in Dublin, where the company was holding its annual general meeting.
The demonstration was organisd by Concerned ESB Active Pension Fund Members, which says that the company is refusing to deal with a €1.6 billion shortfall in its pensoin plan that would leave current employees with just 3 per cent of their investment if the scheme were wound up.
Four staff - Brian Baitson, William Flavin, Owen Kilmurray and Margaret O’Connor - are threatening to take legal action if the company goes ahead with proposals to pay the Government a €78 million dividend, which they claim would be unlawful in light of the retirement scheme deficit.
Addressing today’s demonstration, Brendan Ogle, head of the ESB’s group of unions, said that workers would take any necessary “legal, political and industrial action” to protect their pension fund’s assets.
The deficit is measured according to rules laid down in the Pension Board’s minimum funding standard, which calculates the scheme’s liabilities in the event of it being wound up. According to this, it has liabilities of more than €5 billion and assets of €3.5 billion.
The ESB has pointed out that actuarial tests have confirmed that the scheme is fully funded to meet its liabilities. It says that this measure is more realistic as neither it nor the Government intend winding up the scheme.