Power cuts risk as ESB braces for strike

The possibility of power cuts coming into the winter months has increased after it emerged that 1,300 staff at the ESB look set to be balloted for industrial action up to strike.

A meeting was understood to have taken place yesterday of shop stewards from the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union who represent the staff at the utility ahead of a ballot.

The union’s members have twice rejected a proposed agreement which would see pay increases of 5.5% over two years as well as a lump sum payment of €2,750. That is in addition to a 2% increase paid last year.

The rejection is in spite of the fact that the other unions which, together with the TEEU, make up the ESB group of unions, have all accepted the agreement. The TEEU refused to be bound by the aggregate vote of the group.

The main issues which the TEEU has with the agreement arearound the terms and conditions for new entrants, not least in the area of pay. Another sticking point, according to a well-placed source, has been that sick leave for new personnel would be reduced to 13 weeks from 26 weeks.

Talks between the management and union representatives have been going on for a number of weeks but have now broken down.

The position the TEEU members have taken on the deal has varied in recent months. In the first ballot on the terms, more than 80% voted against it. However, in the next ballot only 64% voted against. If all the TEEU members were to go on strike, it is likely there would be disruption to power supplies as a result. Industrial Relations News, which initially broke the news of the deal on offer to ESB staff, commented: “The decision to hold a strike vote is expected to bring matters to head after months of uncertainty, with the prospect of a vote for full strike action increasing the industrial relations temperature.”

TEEU general secretary Paddy Kavanagh was unavailable for comment last night.

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