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200 ESB Siptu members planning on leaving union in solidarity with expelled workers

Former Connect members numbering in the ‘hundreds’ were recently expelled by Siptu at the request of its sister union.

shutterstock_1038834505 (1) Source: Shutterstock/Kichigin

200 MEMBERS OF services union Siptu are planning on leaving its membership in solidarity with a group of ESB workers who were expelled from the union two weeks ago.

Senior union sources say that the existing workers who were already members of Siptu, numbering 200, are intent on leaving the union and joining a new rival craft association which is in the process of being set up.

However, the move is not expected to happen before a crucial vote on work practices within the company, due to take place in the next six to eight weeks, in order to leave all members entitled to vote.

The expelled members, said to number at least 250 (although Siptu disputes that number), were informed they were to be cut loose from Siptu on 20 July after moving from electrical union Connect (formerly TEEU) in the wake of a round of pay negotiations in early 2017.

At least 550 members left TEEU in the wake of those negotiations, in protest at the perceived inadequacies of TEEU’s stance during the discussions.

Group of Unions

Both Connect and TEEU are members of the four-strong Group of Unions, comprising Connect, the Energy Services Union (ESU), Siptu, and Unite.

A request for comment from Siptu regarding the situation had not immediately been answered at the time of publication.

The 550 workers who left Connect specifically resigned their membership of TEEU, rather than applying to transfer to Siptu, in order to avoid falling foul of the TUF (Trade Union Federation) agreement in place between Siptu and Connect, which prohibits transfers between the unions.

File Pics Staff at the ESB have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in a row over a 1.6 billion deficit in the company pension scheme. Source: Gareth Chaney/Rollingnews.ie

They then applied, and were accepted, to join Siptu.

It’s understood that following an objection to the move by the TEEU hierarchy, Siptu elected to expel the members and return their dues in order to avoid conflict with its sister union.

A senior union source told TheJournal.ie that ‘morale in the company (ESB) is currently the lowest’ they have ever seen, and suggested that, apart from the unions, the company isn’t happy with the situation of industrial unrest as it stands.

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“There’s a level of general unhappiness at what has been going on, exacerbated by the expulsion of the members,” they said.

The new craft association is currently in the process of being set up by disaffected workers.

“If the take up is high then the unions will be left with no craft workers (such as electricians and fitters) which would be a major financial blow,” the source added.

There are approximately 1,600 such craft workers working for ESB, out of a total of roughly 6,500 staff (a further 1,500 staff, not eligible to be unionised within Connect or Siptu work for ESB International).

“Union membership issues are a matter for the trade unions and are not a matter for the company,” an ESB spokesperson said in response to a request for comment on the matter.

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