ESB unions threaten all-out strike as row escalates

Union dispute committee say December stoppage will involve full withdrawal of labour

A file image of ESB Group of Unions general secretary Brendan Ogle. Unions and management will meet to discuss the pensions row today.

A file image of ESB Group of Unions general secretary Brendan Ogle. Unions and management will meet to discuss the pensions row today.

Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 07:54

ESB unions will mount an all out dispute from the morning of Monday, December 16th involving a “full withdrawal of labour and the placing of pickets”, they said in a statement this morning.

A statement issued by Union Disputes Committee said all unionised staff who are members of the defined benefit pension scheme would take part.

The statement was issued as unions and management entered talks under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission got under way.

“Due to ESB’s false accounting and statement of intent regarding the staff’s Defined Benefit pension scheme a strong mandate for industrial action has been received from a ballot of the staff affected,” the statement said.

“The Unions that comprise the ESB Group of Unions have formed a Dispute Committee to execute on the ground the mandate of the membership and have decided the following:

- The industrial dispute to commence at 8 am on Monday December 16th, 2013;

- will take the form of an all out dispute (full withdrawal of labour and the placing of pickets) involving all unionised staff who are members of the Defined Benefit pension scheme;

- All ESB generated power will be off the bars from 8 am on Monday,

December 16.”

The unions said due regard “has , and will continue to be, given to matters concerning public, staff and environmental health and safety. Therefore, where applicable and to be decided by the Dispute Committee, emergency cover for fault and repair services will be provided. “

Unions and management at ESB are due to hold talks at the Labour Relations Commission today in a bid to resolve the dispute which centres around pensions.

The meeting comes as after Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte asked the LRC to intervene last night in the ongoing dispute which is threatening electricity supplies in the run up to Christmas.

Strike notice was served on senior management in the ESB last week and industrial action is due to commence at 8am on December 16th unless a breakthrough can be reached.

Unions are expected to inform the company today of what form any industrial action would take.

Enterprise bodies have warned that an interruption to power supply could result in job losses.

The disagreement centres on claims by union members that the company’s changes to its pension plan means workers are carrying a risk of some €1.7 billion. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton last week said the ESB’s pension fund was one of the best funded in the State.

Mr Rabbitte said last night it was “unthinkable that our economic recovery should be jeopardised, domestic consumers inconvenienced and our country’s reputation undermined by a power disruption that appears to be out of all proportion to the issues in dispute.”

“I have therefore this evening requested the Labour Relations Commission to convene the parties at the earliest possible time,” he said. “I am now asking the parties to use the industrial relations machinery of the state to resolve the dispute and clear up any uncertainty as early as possible.”

The Department of Energy has said contingency plans are in place in the event of a strike by ESB workers and Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn reiterated this while speaking in the Dáil yesterday.

Mr Quinn said there was “ongoing engagement between Eirgrid, ESB and the energy regulator to ensure that, if there is industrial action, appropriate and co-ordinated mitigation measures are taken to safeguard security of supply”.

But Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary said “the contingency plan cannot guarantee to citizens that there will not be a power outage 10 days out from Christmas”.

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