Ireland’s international reputation will be damaged by power outages threatened by ESB workers, it was claimed.
IDA Ireland, the state agency responsible for attracting foreign investment, warned strikes could also severely impact on the operations of leading foreign companies in Ireland.
Business group Ibec also claimed the industrial action could risk thousands of workers being put on protective notice and losing income in the run-up to Christmas.
It called on companies to have a contingency plan in place after the ESB Group of Unions formally served strike notice on the company.
IDA Ireland’s Barry O’Leary said the potential implications of interrupting the electricity supply must be clearly voiced.
“At any one time, we will have tens of companies in the process of making a decision to move parts of their business to Ireland.
“If we can’t guarantee something as basic as electricity, these investments are less likely to come to Ireland.”
Mr O’Leary said IDA client companies are seeking reassurance that electricity supply will not be broken.
“Our clients are some of the biggest users of electricity in the country, with manufacturers, data centres and biotechnology campuses consuming many megawatts (MWs) per day between them,” he said.
Speaking in Korea, where he is on an investment mission, he added: “Ireland will lose credibility with international companies if a power outage goes ahead - the resulting impact on investment could be significant.”
Union leaders at the energy giant are still threatening to strike on December 16 after crunch talks with management failed to resolve a bitter dispute over a €1.6bn hole in the ESB pension scheme.
Ibec is advising companies to plan for and manage any disruption and called on unions to immediately withdraw the strike threat.
Ibec’s Maeve McElwee said: “Any disruption to the energy supply will force many employers to close immediately and send workers home, with the business and the employees bearing the financial loss.
“Any stoppages will inevitably leave workers out of pocket in the run-up to Christmas.
“As we prepare to exit the bailout programme, the international media are again focused on Ireland.
“News of any disruption to the energy supply would go around the world and would have a very negative impact on our international reputation.
“Already the uncertainty caused by the threatened action is costing businesses time and money.”