Electricians’ dispute over pay set to re-ignite

THE dispute over pay between unions and electrical contractors which saw a week-long strike by electricians and delays in some of the country’s major infrastructural projects looks set to re-ignite next week.

An application has been lodged with the Labour Court for the implementation of 4.9% pay increases across the sector, through a variation of the industry’s Registered Employment Agreement (REA).

That percentage increase is significantly less than the 11% initially sought by the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU), which represents 10,500 electricians.

After a prolonged period of dispute which culminated in the strike, the TEEU and one of the main employer bodies, the Electrical Contractors Association, whose members employ 5,000 electricians, agreed to the reduced percentage, as well as a Government-led investigation of non-compliance with the REA.

However, the other main employer group, the Association of Electrical Contractors in Ireland (AECI), which represents 300 small and medium-sized contractors, rejected the percentage increase.

“Members are adamant it would be impossible to recover these cost increases from their customers in the current economic climate,” AECI president Jack Hegarty said at the time. “Contractors are locked into fixed-price contracts going forward to the end of 2010 and, in the case of Government contracts, prices are fixed for 42 months.”

The application to have the REA varied to take into account the pay increase has been lodged with the Labour Court.

While the ECA and TEEU are likely to favour the variation, the AECI has said it will reject it.

“Our members have voted with a huge majority and we have made our case clearly,” said Chris Lundy of the AECI.

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