Trade unions insist no danger of ESB strike

Monday 09 December 2013 22.13
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A threatened strike at ESB has been averted after talks
A threatened strike at ESB has been averted after talks
Brendan Ogle said threats against his life were being taken seriously by gardaí
Brendan Ogle said threats against his life were being taken seriously by gardaí

Unions at the ESB have begun to formally withdraw the threat of strike action which had threatened to trigger blackouts nationwide.

It is understood that following a final meeting of the Group of Unions' Disputes Committee, SIPTU has already withdrawn its notice of industrial action.

Other unions involved in the row are expected to follow suit.

Yesterday, management and unions reached a deal overseen by the Labour Relations Commission that ended the dispute.

Under the delicately-worded agreement, the company agreed that in future it would only refer to the pension scheme as a defined benefit scheme.

It was also agreed that if a deficit arose in the future, the parties would engage to address it on the same basis as in the past.

The Group of Unions agreed to withdraw four court actions against the company. The ESB will pay the costs accrued to date.

Last night, a further dispute broke out when the ESB claimed in a statement that the deal would result in no further liabilities to the company balance sheet.

The Secretary of the Group of Unions Brendan Ogle immediately disputed that statement.

He said the LRC deal was silent on this issue and that unions believed treating the pension scheme as a defined benefit scheme would load at least €369m onto the balance sheet.

Late last night, in an attempt to restore calm, the ESB issued a new statement saying it was happy with the document brokered by the Labour Relations Commission.

It said it would be preparing its accounts in the first quarter of 2014 and would work through any challenges in implementing the agreement with all the parties in the normal way.

In a third statement this morning, the ESB reiterated that it accepted the LRC-brokered settlement to the dispute.

The company acknowledged the assistance of the LRC in arriving at the resolution and recognised the contribution of all the parties involved in resolving the dispute.

Earlier today, Mr Ogle said there is no danger of industrial action taking place after the agreement.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Ogle said unions were now absolutely reassured that when there is an actuarial deficit in the company's pension scheme that money will be put in to fix it.

Mr Ogle said as far as unions were concerned the minimum deficit that will go on the company's balance sheet based on actuarial reports to the Labour Relations Commission is €369m.

However, he said that was a matter between the ESB and its auditors.

Mr Ogle said statements that referred to the accounting treatment of the pension scheme as a defined contribution scheme had been removed.

He said it was not the objective of the unions to damage the financial position of the company.

Mr Ogle also confirmed that gardaí were investigating serious threats that had been made to his life, and against his family a week ago, in the wake of the threatened strike.

He said he believed gardaí were taking the threats seriously.

Strike would have been catastrophic - Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it would have been absolutely catastrophic if the strike had gone ahead.

Mr Kenny said a strike would have damaged Ireland's reputation as a location for investment.

He praised the LRC for putting together an agreed set of circumstances and that these circumstances will apply to the future.

Mr Kenny said it was of immense relief to every person in the country that there will not be an electricity strike on Monday.

Keywords: esb