ESB w0rkers to vote on plan to shed 1,000 jobs by 2015

Workers will be asked to consider plans which management says are needed in order to cut payroll costs by €140 million.

Updated, 09.53

THE ESB has asked trade unions to consider proposals which would see the energy supplier cut almost 1,000 jobs in the next three years.

The State-owned energy provider – which the government no longer plans to sell a minority stake in – has asked for around 700 voluntary redundancies, which would be sought later this year.

Another 300 jobs would be cut over the next three years, though there would be no redundancies, with ESB hoping to cut these jobs through natural wastage.

An ESB spokesman, confirming the plans this morning, insisted the plans would not see any mandatory redundancies, and that the programme to seek voluntary redundancies would begin as soon as unions would approve it.

Four unions representing ESB workers – SIPTU, Unite, TEEU and the ESB Officers’ Association – were yesterday asked to put the deal to their members, with ballots to be held next month.

ESB currently employs some 6,900 people, meaning the job cuts would see the company’s workforce shrinking by just under 10 per cent.

Brendan Ogle from the ESB unions said ballot papers would be issued to workers in the next fortnight, and counted by March 30.

Ogle told that the measures were needed after an independent assessment of ESB’s financial state by Grant Thornton showed that the company needed to cut payroll costs by about 20 per cent – or some €140 million. “The redundancies are in that context,” he said.

If accepted, the window for voluntary redundancies will open at the beginning of April and continue until December.

“There are many other savings encapsulated in this proposal as well – none of which give us much pleasure, but all of which we’re told are necessary.”

Other proposals being put to workers include plans to cut overtime rates by around two-thirds this year alone, and cuts to mileage and subsistence allowances. A pay freeze until mid-2014 is also among the plans.

Asked how he felt the moves would be received by staff, Ogle said nobody was “jumping up and down with excitement about it”, and said the prospects of workers approving the measures depended on how they were presented.

If you start with the position of people coming along and taking money from us, they’re not going to be happy. If you start with the position that an independent verifier has identified a problem… and we have to get €140 million somewhere, you can have a pretty honest debate with the staff.

We’re looking forward to that debate.

Though the government had originally announced plans to sell off a minority stake in the national energy provider, it has since backtracked on this proposal and instead wants to sell off a number of power stations as part of its programme to raise €3 billion from the sale of State assets.

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