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Monday 18 November 2019

Union rules out strike action over ESB sell-off plan

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

ONE of the main ESB unions has ruled out industrial action over government plans to sell a stake in the company -- but customers may still face strikes.

The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) will not hold a ballot for industrial action and described any "knee-jerk" reaction as "dangerous". But UNITE, another key union member of the semi-state company's Group of Unions, has already announced it will ask members to vote.

The TEEU distanced itself further from the union umbrella body last night after pulling out of the Group of Unions last Friday.

It suspended its membership following a controversial speech by group secretary Brendan Ogle, in which he described members as "spoilt".

General secretary Eamon Devoy ruled out a ballot and said the union would not "accept the right of its current secretary Brendan Ogle to speak on behalf of the TEEU".

The comments come after the Government announced it would sell a minority stake in the state-owned energy supplier, although it has not decided on the percentage it will offer.

"The last thing we need is a major industrial battle that will play into the hands of our competitors abroad or privateering vultures," said Mr Devoy.

"If the Government and ESB management make the right decisions at this critical time they will have the full support of the TEEU and its members in the company".

He welcomed Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte's decision not to transfer the electricity transmission assets to Eirgrid.

The union leader said the union was concerned about "the pressure" the Government was under from the European Central Bank, EU and IMF troika to sell off parts of the company under the bailout deal.

"If the sale of a minority shareholding is to be considered it should be in the context of a sale to pension funds or other investment vehicles that would take a positive long-term view, rather than leave itself open to anonymous speculators or other energy companies," he said.

"This is so that the ESB does not end up in the same situation as Aer Lingus with Ryanair."

Meanwhile, talks on a major cost-cutting programme that will mean €140m in payroll cuts will resume tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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