Electricians strike will be ‘industry-wide’, says union

Row could hit power plants and high-profile construction sites

General secretary of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), Eamon Devoy who said pickets would be placed on power plants. Photograph: The Irish Times

General secretary of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), Eamon Devoy who said pickets would be placed on power plants. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 15:36

A planned indefinite strike by electricians working in the electrical contracting sector will be industry-wide, their trade union has said.

Members of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) voted by 94 per cent yesterday in support of strike action from February 24th in a dispute over pay.

The dispute centres on a number of issues. The union has a claim for a 4.9 per cent pay increase that had been recommended by the Labour Court in 2009 but never implemented. The union has also taken issue with a decision by electrical contractors to allow their members to impose pay cuts unilaterally on a firm by firm basis. The TEEU is also seeking to ensure that all electricians employed by electrical contractors, sub-contractors or employment agencies receive the “full and appropriate terms of the national collective agreement currently in place”, based on the terms of a former registered employment agreement in the sector. This had a five-year scale culminating in €21.49 per hour.

Registered employment agreements were struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last May.

The TEEU has argued that while the agreement in the electrical contractor sector on terms and conditions is no longer registered with the Labour Court following the Supreme Court ruling, it remains extant and still constitutes a national collective agreement.

The TEEU said that under former agreements and Labour Court recommendations its members were entitled to pay rates of €24.78 an hour from April 1st, 2014, but that electrical contractors want to cut the existing rate of €21.49 by ten per cent down to €19.34.

The union has said it had been willing to discuss the proposals, but only in the context of a new registered employment agreement that would protect overall industry standards.

TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy said the strike could impact right across the economy including multi-national companies and construction sites where its members were working for electrical contractors.

He said pickets would also be placed on power plants where contractors are in place.

The director general of the Construction Industry Federation Tom Parlon said the strike threat was disappointing.

He said the industry could not afford a 4.9 per cent pay increase at a time when it was going through a fragile recovery.

The employers’ group Ibec called on the TEEU to immediately withdraw strike notice and instead use the use the established industrial relations institutions to resolve the pay dispute. Ibec said that any strike would cause major disruption to businesses right across the economy.