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ESB staff to keep 55pc bill discount

THE ESB's discount electricity deal for staff has survived the company's cost cutting drive, the Herald has learned.

The semi-state recently signed a €140m expense reduction agreement with workers, which will include 1,000 job losses.

But the package does not affect the gold-plated employees' perk of 55pc off a maximum of 1,000 units of electricity per bi-monthly bill.

"ESB has completed a €140m payroll cost base reduction agreement with unions and staff. The agreement does not change the existing staff electricity unit discount arrangement," a spokeswoman confirmed.

She added: "Like other businesses, ESB provides a discount to staff on electricity units used and (it) is capped. No discount is given against standing charges. This has been in operation since 1981."

The perk is worth up to €470 per worker a year.

About 1,000 job losses were confirmed at the ESB after workers voted in favour of the cost-cutting programme.

More than 6,000 staff at the semi-state company were balloted on the voluntary-severance scheme, with around 63pc voting in favour.

The annual payroll savings include 700 voluntary redundancies. A further 300 people are due to retire by 2015 and will not be replaced.

Reductions

The cost-cutting package also includes reductions in lump-sum payments, overtime and expenses but does not touch the discount electricity scheme.

Basic pay - around €70,000 a year on average - is also being protected.

However, there will also be a pay freeze and a cap on profit-sharing payments. Staff will continue to be paid increments.

As Fine Gael's energy spokesman in opposition, Leo Varadkar said ESB staff were getting free electricity.

"While the ESB is cutting off power to vulnerable people who cannot pay their bills, it is giving free electricity units to senior managers and executives and retired executives," he had told the Dail in 2010.

He branded any discount as not appropriate and a disgrace.

However, the Government has been silent on the issue since the Fine Gael/Labour coalition came to power last year.

More than 315,000 ESB customers who were behind in their payments entered into special arrangements last year so they could pay off their electricity debt in small instalments.

The voluntary severance scheme will close at the end of May, with approvals due to be completed by the end of July.

Any staff who apply and are accepted for the scheme will have to leave the company before the end of the year and they cannot be re-employed by the ESB Group.

Those aged between 50 and 60 will have their pension benefits, including lump sums, deferred until they reach the age of 65.

cmurphy@herald.ie


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