ESB Networks has said it intends to take legal action in relation to a dispute involving network technicians who are staging a 24-hour strike today.
The technicians concerned are members of a trade union which is not recognised by the company – the Independent Workers Union (IWU).
The technicians have engaged in a work-to-rule over recent days, which the company said may have resulted in some delays to out-of-hours restoration of power for small pockets of customers.
It is unclear as to the potential impact of today’s strike on customers. The company maintained that other unions representing staff in the sector had said they were not involved in the dispute and would continue to provide emergency cover.
The company said it was putting contingency arrangements in place ahead of the swork stoppage.
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 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.
ESB Networks said on Thursday evening that the 24-hour stoppage strike by the IWU was “unlawful”.
The company said that 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.
“ESB Networks continues to monitor the situation closely and ensure that the necessary contingency plans are in place to minimise the effects on its operations and customers as much as possible.”
“ESB Networks remains committed to resolving this matter. It is exploring all options, and has notified the IWU that it intends to take legal action in relation to this dispute.”
The IWU is not affiliated to either the ESB group of unions or the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
The union said it was available at all times to utilise the State services of the WRC to avoid a continuation of this dispute but that 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.”
The union said that the company had “ chosen to raise inappropriate technicalities by written format and failed to contact the union in any meaningful way”. It said the company had declined to enter dialogue and - or refer the matter to the WRC conciliation service but “instead has threatened a High Court action”.
It is understood the company is reluctant to take the issue to the WRC on the basis that it does not recognise the IWU as a representative organisation for the technicians and because it sees the industrial action as unlawful under legislation.