ESB unions back Ogle to keep job
Narrow win in vote but still faces probe into speech about 'spoilt' members
Published 02/09/2011 | 05:00
ESB union chief Brendan Ogle has narrowly avoided suspension after describing his members as "spoilt" at a speech to a republican meeting.
The Group of Unions voted against suspending him on pay after a controversial speech to Eirigi that was revealed in the Irish Independent.
This means Mr Ogle will continue in his job as lead negotiator for the workforce of 7,000 and receive a salary of more than €80,000, which is paid by the state-owned company.
However, the Group of Unions will conduct an investigation into his speech, which was delivered beside 'Britain out of Ireland' posters.
It will meet in the coming days to draw up the terms of reference for the probe.
Unions were deeply divided at a crisis meeting yesterday to discuss his fate.
Mr Ogle avoided suspension because he got the backing of his own union, UNITE, and the ESB Officers Association, but the TEEU and SIPTU voted against him.
The TEEU had proposed a motion that an investigation be carried out and Mr Ogle should be suspended on pay while it was under way.
But the ESBOA and UNITE, which hold 10 votes between them, voted in favour of an amendment that his suspension should be dropped from the motion.
The TEEU and SIPTU voted against the amendment, but only have six votes so they were defeated.
As a result, Mr Ogle will remain in his job while an investigation is carried out, which the unions are obliged to do under their own rules.
The union leaders' vote against his suspension is being seen as a victory for Mr Ogle.
It is understood that their fears that his absence at a critical time for the group, which is facing negotiations on payroll cuts of €140m, may have helped swing the vote in his favour.
Sources said there was still huge anger among staff at the commercial semi-state company at the remarks made by their lead negotiator.
It is also understood that UNITE decided to withdraw a separate motion of confidence in the union leader.
The ESB, which pays Mr Ogle's wages, bluntly refused to comment when asked if it felt it was appropriate to keep funding his pay.
In a statement last night, Mr Ogle confirmed that an investigation was under way.
"The ESB Group of Unions... considered the recent events surrounding reported comments by the Secretary of the Group," he said.
"In accordance with the Group constitution, this matter will now be considered by an independent investigation with the full co-operation of all concerned.
"The Group will in the meantime continue to conduct its representation of ESB staff facing the major challenges of cost base verification and privatisation in the normal manner."
UNITE confirmed that Mr Ogle was "still in his job" and will go into talks on behalf of staff while the investigation is taking place, but was unsure if there is a deadline for the probe.
thomas molloy, page 18