Friday 20 April 2018

We’ll ditch ESB if lights go off - shops

Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

IRELAND’S biggest retail body has vowed that all its members will pull the plug on its support for the ESB if it cuts the power supply during the Christmas period.

The move comes after one of the biggest unions in the ESB confirmed it will serve notice of industrial action on Friday.

The ESB Group of Unions decided to escalate its dispute over the €1.6bn deficit in the company pension scheme.

But each of the five affiliated unions must individually approve and serve notice on behalf of its members.

The Energy Services Union, representing around 1,200 administrative staff, has officially authorised the serving of notice of “industrial/strike action”.

Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) threatened a massive cancellation of ESB accounts from the business sector if the power cuts went ahead.

REI involves 1,100 leading retail companies that operate more than 11,000 stores in the Irish market.

REI chief executive David Fitzsimons said: “The ESB and Electric Ireland currently enjoys some 88,000 SME and 14,000 medium-sized business accounts.

“Should strike action proceed, the retail industry will withdraw all support for the State company in the new year.

“We will intervene to assist retail industry businesses to switch to more market-focused energy providers.

“The ESB and Electric Ireland, the union and the staff, have no understanding of the real world and the harsh economy we live in today.

“A company that demonstrates such a culture of ignorance and opulence is one that should not be supported.”

Mr Fitzsimons has estimated that about 44,000 company accounts would leave the ESB in the New Year if the strike hit business in the busy run-up to Christmas.

The threat of strike action centres on a €1.6bn deficit in the ESB workers’ pension fund.

Unions have set a date of December 16 to begin shutting off power unless the issue is resolved.

Brendan Ogle, the secretary of the ESB group of unions, warned that it was “very difficult” to envisage industrial action that does not have an actual or threatened effect on power supplies.

The outcome of a recent ballot showed that nearly nine out of 10 ESB workers voted in favour of industrial action.

Eamon Timmins, the spokesman for Age Action Ireland, which represents elderly people, warned that any power outages would have a devastating effect on the “most vulnerable people” in society.

Irish Independent

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