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ESB network technicians protesting at the station in Finglas during a strike in 2005. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Retail firms to switch energy providers if ESB strike goes ahead

Retail Excellence Ireland urged the government to intervene to prevent the ESB from “holding the country to ransom”.

IRELAND’S LARGEST RETAIL industry body has warned that retail businesses will withdraw all support for ESB in the new year should the threatened strike go ahead.

Workers have issued a written threat of strike pending a meeting with company executives later this week. The dispute centres around an agreement in 2010 to address the €1.6 billion deficit in the company’s pension scheme, which unions say the company has breached.

Speaking to, David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) described the threat as “ludicrous”.

“We don’t fully believe that the ESB management team, unions and staff are fully aware of the impact that the threat of a strike is having on businesses,” he said. “In the real economy, businesses are looking towards this Christmas and whether they will survive it or cease to trade.”

We’re making it clear to the board and management of ESB that there would be a significant cohort of businesses that would cease to support the body if any strike was to happen.

Fitzsimons said that this threat was “incredibly realistic” commenting that many businesses will leave simply because they have ceased to trade as three or four days of an ESB closure in the busiest period of the year would have a “tremendous impact” on them.

Staff ‘do not have the right to strike’

Today REI urged Minister Pat Rabbitte to intervene with emergency legislation “to prevent this State Network monopoly from holding the country to ransom”. Fitzsimons said staff at the state network “do not have a right to go on strike” and that threats by unions to close down the electricity grid across the entire country were “incredibly irresponsible”.

The retail industry body said it would assist businesses to switch to more “market focused energy providers” in the new year if a deal between unions and management cannot be reached.

Read: Charity warns ESB strike would ‘hurt most vulnerable’>

Read: ESB unions issue strike threat ahead of meeting next week>

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