Irish

Monday 28 July 2014

ESB staff get help to quit smoking

Roisin Burke

Published 16/03/2014|02:30

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ESB Chief Executive Pat O'Doherty
ESB Chief Executive Pat O'Doherty

Smokers at the ESB get help to kick their habit through a subsidised nicotine patch scheme, the utility giant's latest annual report shows.

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ESB paid €1,600 towards 40 nicotine-addicted employees seeking to quit last year and funded a range of health screening and wellness programmes and monthly "work-life balance" bulletins as part of its touchy-feely "health maintenance programme".

Other staff perks include extremely generous mobile phone allowances in some cases, half-price electricity and the highest average rates of pay in the sector.

At board level, chief executive Pat O'Doherty and other directors spent close to €100,000 on expenses, including €49,828 on travel, €21,783 on hotels, food and drink, €4,009 for what is termed "business entertainment" and €19,223 for "subscriptions to business relevant organisations and publications". The expenses spend is up €10,000 on the previous year in spite of the ongoing climate of belt-tightening in the country.

ESB's spokesman declined to elaborate on what specific events or duties these spendings applied to, saying they related to "normal business activity of the board. Board members are reimbursed for travel costs and expenses associated with their duties on the ESB board. There are a number of board members who travel from around the country to attend meetings, including board and committee meetings, which take place in Dublin".

In addition to expenses ESB's board were paid €15,750 each, with the exception of newcomer Noreen O'Kelly, who waived her fee.

O'Doherty's pay packet rose by over €6,000 from €258,950 due to a tax benefit – but is a far cry from the really boomtime pay levels enjoyed by former chief executive Padraig McManus, whose remuneration hit €750,000 a year.

Later this year, a pay-freeze agreement that applies to the bulk of ESB staff comes to an end, paving the way for what should be interesting negotiations on possible pay hikes. The ESB said that no other subsequent agreement exists to replace the freeze deal, which dates back to the last National Wage Agreement in 2008/2009, but added that overall payroll would be reduced by €140m by 2015.

In the run-up to Christmas last year, a "lights out" situation beckoned when ESB unions threatened to strike over a pension issue. Electricity prices have risen by double digits, up 35 per cent on average since 2011.

Sunday Indo Business

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