MORE than 6,000 ESB workers have reaped an average €3,000-plus windfall each under profit-sharing schemes.
The state electricity supplier last night confirmed 6,356 staff got the annual payments at the end of last month.
The wage boost bucks the trend toward wage restraint across the economy as the majority of private and public sector workers face pay freezes over the next three years.
The ESB workforce was one of the few to receive payment of the first 3.5pc pay rise under the last national wage agreement.
A spokesman said the payments -- averaging €3,200 per worker -- were made in late September to 6,356 staff.
"I can confirm that these taxable, non-pensionable payments are in respect of long-established industrial relations agreements, which have delivered significant cost savings, number reductions, work practice and electricity market changes for ESB over the past number of years," he told the Irish Independent.
The annual payments were made under two agreements -- the CCR (Cost and Competitiveness Review) dating from 1996 and PACT (Programme to Achieve Competitiveness and Transformation) of 2002.
It is understood that roughly €475 of the overall payment was under CCR, which is a flat-rate, inflation-linked payment from gross profits.
Most of the payment was under the PACT profit-sharing deal, which is worth 2-5pc of pay.
The Irish Independent recently revealed that workers in commercial semi-state companies earned an average of about €130 a week more than private sector employees.
The largest national workplace survey ever compiled showed average weekly earnings of workers in enterprises like ESB and Bord Gais were €808.83.
This compared with an average weekly wage of €792.32 in the public sector and €678.35 in the private sector.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan previously ordered a review of pay levels of CEOs in the commercial state sector after it emerged that some executives earned many multiples of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's wages.
ESB boss Padraig McManus earns an annual salary of €750,000, more than three times that of the Taoiseach.