‘Business as usual’ despite strike by technicians – ESB Networks

Dispute is over lack of consultation on outsourcing, not over money, union says

 

ESB Networks has suggested that a strike by several hundred network technicians on Friday had very limited impact on services.

However, a work-to-rule by the staff concerned is to continue over the weekend and two further work stoppages are scheduled for next week.

The company said on Friday that essentially it had been “business as usual”.

It said there had been no deferral of planned maintenance work as a result of the stoppage.

A spokesman said faults were repaired across the system. He said at any stage there could be a couple of hundred customers without power due to faults and outages. However, he said the time it was taking to repair such faults on Friday was not out of line with waiting times for power restoration on other days.

The network technicians involved in the strike are members of the Independent Workers’ Union (IWU).

It said 200 network technicians who worked for ESB Networks in the Dublin area took part in the strike on Friday with more than 350 more involved in the one-day stoppage in other parts of the country.

The union said a further 48-hour strike was scheduled to take place on Thursday and Friday of next week.

ESB Networks has maintained that the strike by the IWU was “unlawful”.

The company said it intended to take legal action.

However, no detail has emerged of any planned legal action by the company.

ESB Networks does not recognise the IWU as a representative organisation for the network technician grades in the company. The IWU is not part of the group of unions in the company.

Dispute

The IWU said on Thursday that the dispute was not about money.

The union said it centred on “the failure of the employer to partake in any meaningful discussions in relation to the continued outsourcing of our members’ work to outside third parties – the continued privatisation of the ESB”.

The union said that in the past the company consulted on work that was to be outsourced but now it simply briefed employees on its own plans.

The work performed by the network technicians includes the upgrading of infrastructure, essential maintenance and repairs, and the provision of safety services that assist external electrical contractors on outsourced projects.

There are about 1,500 staff in the network technician grade and the IWU has said it represents about 500.

Many of the technicians who are now members of the IWU had previously belonged to the Connect trade union but left in 2015.

ESB Networks said on Thursday evening that the 24-hour stoppage strike by the IWU was “unlawful”.

The company said the IWU had “balloted their members to progress a claim that has not been made to ESB or the Labour Court”.

“This is a legal matter, and we are dealing with it as such,” the company said.

Services

The union said it was available at all times to utilise the services of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to avoid a continuation of this dispute but the company had not agreed.

“The members have been pursuing a resolution of this grievance properly through any available internal process since 2019. On every occasion the employer has ignored or failed to address the matter in any meaningful way.

“At all times the union identified to the employer and still does to this day, that the union and its members are available to enter dialogue, discussions on the provision of emergency essential service if required, and are available at all times to have the matter referred to the WRC conciliation service, the proper and appropriate forum to enter a dispute resolution process on this matter.”