CASH-STRAPPED families face even more misery this winter with the announcement that the ESB is set to hike up prices.
Electricity bills will rise by almost 15pc from October 1 -- causing more hardship for householders.
Up to €160 will be added to the average household bill.
The move has been slammed by consumer groups and charities, with particular concern for older people.
It was widely expected that the ESB would introduce a hike in prices, but the organisation has been criticised for imposing a greater hike than its rivals.
Competitors Bord Gais and Airtricity both announced hikes of 12pc earlier this summer.
The announcement comes as the most senior union official at the state-owned body described ESB workers as "spoilt" .
The comments by UNITE's Brendan Ogle were recorded at an address to militant republican organisation, Eirgi, in May.
Mr Ogle described himself and his colleagues as "privileged and very lucky" and listed an "after hours work scheme" as well as over time as examples of the "gravy" that workers had become used to.
"You wouldn't know it listening to them, but they are very privileged and lucky," he said.
The average salary at the ESB is €75,500 -- and this rises to ¤94,300 when pension contributions are included.
The firm blamed the increase on a 40pc rise in international gas prices in the past year.
ESB's general manager Liam Molloy expressed regret at the increases but insisted the company would "continue to work with our customers who are facing difficulties in dealing with their electricity accounts".
He added: "Unfortunately we can no longer continue to absorb these increased costs without reflecting them in the prices we charge our customers. We have held off increasing prices for as long as possible."
The unit price increase imposed is 14.8pc but the domestic customer's average bills will rise by about 12pc.
The move has prompted the Consumers Association to call on the Government to reduce the VAT rate on utilities to 9 pc.
And charities Age Action Ireland and Alone are seeking assurances from the government that the elderly will not suffer from the increases.