Wednesday 13 December 2017

Quitting 'wasn't option' for Ogle despite threat

ESB Group of Unions general secretary Brendan Ogle
ESB Group of Unions general secretary Brendan Ogle

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

THE head of the ESB's group of unions "never once" considered quitting despite a death threat being issued against him and his family.

Brendan Ogle, right, said he believed the menacing letter, which is being investigated by gardai, was sent as a result of public "hysteria" over the potential for blackouts over the Christmas period.

"I would be less than human if it did not have some effect, but it did not dissuade me from doing my job," Mr Ogle told the Irish Independent.

He made the comments after the impasse over the company's main pension scheme was resolved on Sunday, when ESB management gave in to union demands to treat the scheme as a defined-benefit scheme.

Both sides also committed to holding talks to agree arrangements whenever deficits in the pension scheme arise.

Mr Ogle revealed the breakthrough took unions by surprise, with the resistance from management "just melting away".

Last night the ESB denied the sudden change had anything to do with the Commercial Court case being taken by four ESB staff over the categorisation of the scheme.

As part of the case, the ESB's chief executive Pat O'Doherty had been requested by Mr Justice Peter Kelly to reply to concerns voiced by the trustees of the pension scheme over what would have amounted to a €1.7bn deficit if the scheme was suddenly wound up.


Mr Ogle said he believed a deadline for Mr O'Doherty to file a reply may have had a bearing on the swift conclusion of the talks -- a claim that was denied last night by the ESB.

As part of Sunday's agreement, the case is being withdrawn, with the ESB agreeing to pay all costs.

Mr Ogle, who became a focal point for public fury during the dispute, said he was glad there had been a resolution.

He admitted that the past three weeks had "not been enjoyable" and that he had taken a battering in the media over his uncompromising stance.

"Even though I have been here before, I am still surprised at the extent to which hysteria gets whipped up," he said.

He confirmed that a written death threat, targeting him and his young family, was sent to his office on December 2.

On the advice of security staff he reported the matter to gardai and an investigation has been launched.

"Obviously it caused me some concern, but not to the extent that you would be bullied out of office by it," he said.

Mr Ogle, who has headed the ESB group of unions for the past three years, said he intended seeing out the remainder of his five-year term and had no immediate plans to capitalise on his growing profile by pushing for a higher position within his union Unite.

There has been speculation in union circles that Mr Ogle has had his eye on taking over from Unite's Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly when he retires.

Irish Independent

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