independent

Monday 21 April 2014

ESB workers warn board to abide by pension fund agreement

Unions take 'extraordinary step' to write to each board member

ESB Group of Unions general secretary Brendan Ogle

ESB workers have warned the board of management to abide by its agreement to resolve a hole in its pension fund.

In an unprecedented move, the ESB Group of Unions have written formally to the board to set out the agreement reached over a weekend of intensive talks and which avoided widespread industrial action.

The letter, seen by Independent.ie, says unions had taken the “extraordinary step” of writing to each board member “in light of recent pension difficulties in ESB and all the attendant issues”.

It says the crisis, which could have resulted in power generation being shut down and widespread impacts on homes and businesses, brought about 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 that 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.

“We are anxious to avoid a repeat of any situation where the Group of Unions’ position on these matters is misrepresented thereby leading to another crisis. This is a key purpose of this communication,” it continues.

“Following the intervention of the Labour Relations Commission, the resolution of the industrial dispute and the settlement of a legal action by four staff and pension scheme members against ESB, the Board should be fully aware of the Group of Unions’ view on where this pension issue currently stands.

“We believe our position is supported by agreements, policies, scheme regulations, primary legislation and reports from the scheme actuary and an independent actuary.”

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.”

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