Tuesday 26 September 2017

'We're watching you', retail body critical of ESB strike action told

Chief Executive of REI,David Fitzsimons
Chief Executive of REI,David Fitzsimons
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

THE email was titled: 'We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.' It was sent using a free email service

THE looming ESB strike has taken a sinister turn after staff at a retail representative body that opposes the planned action were warned they're "being watched".

Staff at Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), including its chief executive David Fitzsimons, received a chilling anonymous email this week.

The disturbing email was titled: "We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us." It was sent using a free email service that's availed of by millions of people around the world.

And it included a link to a report on REI's announcement this week that it is prepared to assist members to move their ESB accounts to new providers.

The email ends with the threatening message: "We are watching you."

It came after REI said it would help its members to move their power accounts if a strike goes ahead.

Mr Fitzsimons has warned a strike could see still struggling retailers go to the wall at what should be the busiest time of the year for many.

He said ESB, its unions and staff have "no understanding" of the real world and that a firm that demonstrates such a culture of "ignorance and opulence" shouldn't be supported.

REI confirmed the message was referred to gardai in both Ennis, Co Clare, where REI has its headquarters, and Dublin.

Gardai at the Pearse Street station in the capital are investigating.

While it's possible to determine where an email was sent from, by identifying a unique identifier called an IP address, there are ways in which to mask that identifier or create a false one, making it more difficult to determine the true origin.

An ESB spokesperson said: "We do not condone any form of threatening behaviour or communications and can assure you that the content of this note/email as you have described in no way reflects the views of ESB.

"We are acutely aware of the potentially serious impact that any disruption to electricity supplies could have on our customers and we will continue to work to resolve the issues through our established industrial relations procedures."

The garda probe got under way as ESB chiefs gathered at a board meeting yesterday to discuss the deepening industrial relations crisis.

Union representatives, including head of the ESB group of unions Brendan Ogle, are due to meet ESB management this morning to thrash out issues related to a massive €1.6bn deficit at a staff pension scheme.

CHARGED

Notice of industrial action could be served tomorrow and a strike could get under way on December 16.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Ogle said the talks this morning would be highly charged.

"We will be holding them accountable," he said. "If the lights go out, the responsibility will lie squarely with management."

He said there would be "nothing delicate" about today's meeting.

The ESB has insisted it has no further legal obligation to plug the deficit at the pension scheme.

Mr Ogle also insisted he had "no power" to postpone any strike action until after Christmas.

Mr Ogle declined to comment on the anonymous email received by the retail group.

Irish Independent

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