independent

Monday 21 April 2014

ESB staff warn the board to abide by new deal

Brendan Ogle
Brendan Ogle, head of the ESB Group of Unions

ESB WORKERS have told the company's board of management that it must fully abide by an agreement which ended a row over a €1.6bn hole in the pension plan.

In an unprecedented move, the Group of Unions has written formally to each board member setting out the agreement reached over a weekend of intensive talks which avoided widespread industrial action.

The resolution came after management caved into union demands to make its pension scheme more attractive for workers and guarantee its status as a defined benefit plan, meaning pensions would be based on agreed payments.

The row centred on a hole in the fund, which management claimed it had no liability for and which unions said it was obliged to resolve.

However, it has emerged that the Group of Unions has now taken the "extraordinary step" of writing to each board member "in light of recent pension difficulties in ESB and all the attendant issues".

CRISIS

The letter said the crisis, which could have resulted in power generation being shut down and widespread impacts on homes and businesses, was brought about because of an "unprecedented industrial relations, reputational and legal crisis" in the commercial semi-state, and could have been avoided.

"This crisis was resolved with the aid of the Labour Relations Commission but on terms the ESB could have agreed to at any time previously, thus avoiding any external difficulties, reputational damage or even commentary," it says.

"The ESB Group of Unions were, at all times, not only available for such a dialogue/resolution but were actively seeking it since at least July 4, 2012."

It also claims that ESB management "misrepresented" the Group of Unions' position in relation to the pension crisis.

The letter adds that the ESB should continue to support the scheme, and that doing so does not place the company's reputation in jeopardy.

"In fact, if recent events demonstrate anything, it is that the greatest risk to ESB's strength and reputation comes form its own behaviour since 2010 and the management of these matters.

"We assure the board that we will continue to honour, in full, all of our agreements and obligations. We are, however, resolved that ESB will do likewise."

Irish Independent

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