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Strife at the ESB as unions clash over strike plans

The TEEU has hit out at fellow union Unite, saying it is “not appropriate” to threaten shutdown of Ireland’s electricity supply.

Image: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland

STARK DIVISIONS HAVE emerged among unions representing staff at ESB, after one warned another that threatening industrial action was “not appropriate”.

The apparent conflict has arisen as the government mulls proposals to sell off a minority stake in the State electricity company, as part of a bid to raise capital under the IMF/EU bailout plan.

The leader of Unite, which is one of the Group of Unions representing ESB workers, last week said staff would be balloted on industrial action over the sell-off plans, and he “fully expected” them to vote for a strike. He added that members were “up for the fight”.

However Eamon Devoy, general secretary of the TEEU – which last week left the ESB’s union grouping – this morning hit out at Unite’s position. He said strike threats were “handing the agenda to pro-privatisation” elements in Ireland, adding: “It’s not appropriate to be all the time threatening to pull the electricity supply.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Devoy added that workers could not be balloted until it was clear what course of action the government would take. He said: “The TEEU mean what we say and say what we mean. And that means we don’t threaten industrial action unless we really mean it.”

Unite today rejected the comments. The union’s senior official in Ireland, Jimmy Kelly, said: “It has been wrongly suggested that UNITE’s decision to ballot members for industrial action over the sale of the ESB is a knee jerk reaction.”

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He referred to a motion passed in July, where all five employee associations in the ESB Group of Unions unanimously passed a motion to ballot for industrial action “in the event of steps being taken” to privatise any part of the company. Mr Kelly added:

UNITE has an obligation to do what is best for all staff,the company and the long term energy security of Ireland. We believe that the maintainance of the company as a state asset is vital to those three elements, and are unwilling to accept that the interests of political ideology and the IMF are more important.

Read more: UNITE official fully expects ESB workers to vote for industrial action>

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Michael Freeman

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