ESB network technicians to stage 48-hour strike from Tuesday

Company says stoppage is ‘unnecessary’ and has had ‘limited’ impact

The dispute centres on what the Independent Workers’ Union describes as a lack of consultation and meaningful discussion about the outsourcing of work. File photograph: Laura Hutton

The dispute centres on what the Independent Workers’ Union describes as a lack of consultation and meaningful discussion about the outsourcing of work. File photograph: Laura Hutton

 

Technicians working for ESB Networks are to stage a 48-hour strike from Tuesday morning as part of continuing industrial action.

More than 500 network technicians, who are members of the Independent Workers’ Union (IWU), took part in a 24-hour stoppage last Thursday and on Friday of the previous week. A work-to-rule by the technicians has been underway for the last fortnight.

The company on Monday described the industrial action as “unnecessary” It said the impact of the work-to-rule over the bank holiday weekend had been “limited” and that repair work and the restoration of power supplies to customers affected by outages had been in line with normal timescales for a regular day with blustery winds.

The company said contingency plans had been put in place in relation to the strikes later this week. It said it was “working towards mitigating any impact on customers for the duration of the upcoming strike action”.

ESB Networks has described the industrial action by network technicians as “unlawful” and has initiated legal proceedings.

However the IWU said the legal action would be met “head on”.

Outsourcing

The dispute centres on what the union has described as a lack of consultation and meaningful discussion about the outsourcing of work.

The IWU has insisted the current strike is not about money.

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.

The IWU said the dispute centred on a “valid legal claim for proper consultation rights under the Information and Consultation Act 2006/08, in relation to the continued outsourcing of their work by the employer”.

In a statement on Monday ESB Networks again raised concerns over what it said was the failure of the IWU to co-operate with the provision of emergency cover since the industrial action commenced on April 19th.

“This is unprecedented in ESB’s experience. ESB Networks once again acknowledges the strong support provided by our staff who are members of the affiliated trade unions”, the company said.

The IWU has consistently said it would be more than happy to provide emergency cover but that the company had not contacted it to ask for this to be made available.

Grievance procedures

The union said last week: “Our members have been almost two years attempting to utilise all the available internal grievance procedures of the employer to resolve this issue. In that time they have come against nothing more than a brick-wall approach from the employer.

“Eventually due to the intransigent position being adopted our members were left with no option but to ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action, proper procedure under the legislation was enacted and the employer was correctly informed.”

The union is expected to respond formally this week to the legal proceedings initiated by the company.

The union also maintained that the company had issued warnings to some staff about potential disciplinary action over participating in the dispute.

ESB Networks declined to comment on this issue.

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.