WE may be facing an electricity blackout in December but ESB staff will still receive their Christmas payment – whether they go on strike or not.
The traditional bonus, which is worth up to €450 to an employee on the ESB's average salary of €65,000, is usually made in December.
It has been confirmed the money will be paid despite ESB group of unions leader Brendan Ogle insisting there is "no gravy" left.
But consumers could face a black-out from December 16 after staff threatened to strike in a row over a €1.6m deficit in the staff pension scheme.
Mr Ogle said: "The company haven't threatened us about withholding payments. We haven't received any such communication. I don't think withdrawing people's wages is a good way to settle a dispute, if they want to settle a dispute."
The annual salary boost dates back to a 1996 agreement on costs and competitiveness. The payment is known as a CCR (Cost and Competitiveness Review), and is a flat-rate sum linked to profitability. It is subject to tax, and not treated as a bonus.
Bosses and unions met yesterday for a "very robust meeting" but failed to broker a deal in the long-standing row.
The talks broke up last night and the parties are still "very far apart," according to Mr Ogle.
He said the four unions will issue notice of industrial action at 2pm today, which means industrial action could hit from December 16.
The ESB said in a statement: "There was an open and frank exchange of views and significant differences remain between the parties.
"Both parties have agreed to engage in intensive dialogue focused on addressing these differences."
The unions claim management are obliged to plug the pensions deficit, which it denies.
But the union's position to bosses, set out in a document at its meeting yesterday, accused "highly-paid" executives of bringing the "once well-managed company" to an unprecedented industrial relations crisis.
Despite the trenchant stance from the group of unions, some sources suggested tensions may emerge within the group as December 16 draws nearer.
The unions can expect a huge public backlash if they choose to engage in any disruptive industrial action just a week before Christmas.
Mr Ogle has long been a controversial figure, particularly after comments he made in 2011 when he described ESB workers as "spoiled" and claimed they had become accustomed to "gravy" being poured from above. He yesterday told RTE he had apologised for his comments to workers, and that things had changed in the firm. "The gravy is gone," he added.