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Gas staff get €400 perk as homes cut off

SEMI-STATE company Bord Gais offers its employees significant reductions on their gas bills.

As hard-pressed workers struggle to meet monthly payments, hundreds of staff at the energy group are entitled to the perk -- sometimes worth as much as €388 each year.

Earlier this week it was revealed a similar scheme was in place at semi-state ESB, where workers can receive as much as 55pc off their bills.

Both companies have already cut off cash-strapped customers who are unable to pay their bills.

And the scheme in the ESB does not only apply to current workers, but extends to retired staff as well.

There is no standard percentage discount applied for usage in the case of Bord Gais staff and the discount depends on what tariff the worker was on.

The benefit in kind was introduced 10 years ago under a "change in work practices" deal between Bord Gais management and unions following a Labour Relations Commission recommendation that a staff rate be introduced.

Fine Gael energy spokesman Leo Varadkar raised the issue of the ESB perk in the Dail when he asked Energy Minister Eamon Ryan to explain why staff were getting discounts worth up to €470 per month.

All 5,800 ESB workers and some retired staff are entitled to 55pc off a maximum of 1,000 units of electricity per bi-monthly bill. ESB boss Padraig McManus is the highest paid chief of a State-owned company with annual package of €750,000.

And in addition, the 3.5pc salary increase paid to 4,000 ESB staff in the past year also caused uproar.

ESB continues to disconnect between 8,000 to 9,000 homes every year, while Bord Gais has disconnected about 4,000 customers since January.

Mr Ryan said the issue was a matter for the management of Bord Gais and the ESB.

But Mr Varadkar said that staff at both companies should be aware of the cuts being applied across businesses given the economic situation.

"I certainly do not begrudge staff their benefit but everyone else is taking big pay cuts and losing perks and benefits they used to enjoy," he said.