Lawyers claim ESB's plan to pay State €78.4m dividend 'unlawful'
LAWYERS for unions at the ESB have told the company and the Government that moves to approve the payment of a dividend of €78.4m to the State are unlawful.
The ESB, headed up by chief executive Pat O'Doherty (right), is due to hold its annual general meeting today when it is set to approve the payment of the dividend to the Government.
There are also plans to pay a special dividend of €400m next year.
But the unions contend that it would be unlawful to pay any dividend when there is a deficit of €1.6bn in the semi-state firm's pension fund.
Lawyers for the group of unions have threatened to take a High Court action to stop the payment of any dividends if they are approved by the ESB's board.
It is understood there is likely to be a protest outside the Dublin offices of the ESB before the AGM by workers who fear they will have their pension benefits wiped out as the deficit is so large.
Lawyers Byrne Wallace have written to the ESB and various government departments claiming it would be unlawful to pay the dividend as the ESB has said in its latest set of accounts it will not put any more money into the scheme "in any circumstances".
The unions contend the pension was set up under statute and the ESB has a duty under law to fund it properly.
If the scheme was to wind up today members who have yet to retire would get just 3pc of their expected benefits, under Pensions Board minimum funding rules.
A spokesman for the ESB said the company had no comment, and the AGM was not open to the public or the media.