Thursday 14 December 2017

Man leading resistance once called workers 'spoilt'

Secretary of the ESB group of unions, Brendan Ogle. Mark Condren
Secretary of the ESB group of unions, Brendan Ogle. Mark Condren
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

WITH five individual unions comprising the ESB group, there is strong support for industrial action at the semi-state power company.

Brendan Ogle, who is secretary of the ESB group of unions and has his €80,000 salary paid by the ESB, is both controversial and vocal.

He has previously described the ESB workers as being "spoilt".

In a speech to the republican socialist group Eirigi in May 2011, he also said that ESB staff enjoyed government "gravy" through perks such as after-work schemes.

When the speech became public in September that year he said the comments had been taken out of context, but apologised to his own members for his description of them.

"I have consistently pointed out to staff that due to the downturn, loss of customers and the fall off in project development, that 'gravy' which all workers in the public and private sector benefited from during the so-called Celtic Tiger years would dry up," he said at the time.

BACKLASH

This week he warned that his members would not be deflected by the anticipated public backlash to industrial action in the run-up to Christmas. The ESB pays for Mr Ogle's secretary and offices on Dublin's leafy Merrion Square.

Mr Ogle is on secondment from the Unite union, which is also one of the five groups under the ESB group union umbrella. He was previously executive secretary of the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association.

Also among the group of five unions is SIPTU, the country's biggest, headed by Jack O'Connor. He's been to the forefront of the trade union fight against austerity.

He caused controversy during the summer when he compared the boss of Allied Irish Banks, David Duffy, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister for propaganda.

"If Goebbels had that man (David Duffy), Hitler would have won the war," Mr O'Connor said, speaking at the MacGill Summer School. He was referring to Mr Duffy's claims that one in five homeowners in arrears was "strategically defaulting".

Mr O'Connor stood by the comparison, but insisted he was not in any way suggesting that Mr Duffy was remotely aligned with Nazism.

Mr O'Connor is paid €115,000 a year, down from the €125,000 he earned a couple of years ago.

Eamon Devoy is the general secretary of the TEEU union, which is also part of the ESB group of unions. He has previously declined to reveal how much he's paid.

The TEEU is the largest engineering union in the country, and Mr Devoy took up the reins there in 2008.

However, assistant general secretary Arthur Hall has been the acting TEEU general secretary of late. In his time as a union official, he has battled on behalf of workers at companies from Aer Lingus to Coca-Cola. In 2008, he described the drink maker's policies as anti-union after it closed a plant in Drogheda that year. He urged union members to buy Pepsi rather than Coke.

The Energy Services Union (ESU), formerly the ESBOA, is another of the ESB group of unions, representing about 1,300 clerical, administrative, managerial and technical staff in the power company and its subsidiaries.

It is headed by long-time union official, general secretary Fran O'Neill.

The ESU has issued strike notice to the ESB at least three times since 2001, not including the latest unrest.

The UK-based Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) is another of the ESB group of unions. It represents over 15,000 craft workers in Ireland, as well as 120,000 building workers in the UK.

Irish Independent

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