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Union chief who branded members 'spoilt' will lead their pay talks

Brendan Ogle will represent the ESB workers who he said enjoyed “gravy” benefits, buying foreign property and cars.

Brendan Ogle: said he 'had a problem' with ESB staff
Brendan Ogle: said he 'had a problem' with ESB staff
Image: Twitter

A UNION OFFICIAL who controversially dubbed ESB staff “spoilt” and described the “gravy” they receive will represent those workers at pay talks with management.

Brendan Ogle, the general secretary of the ESB Group of Unions representing more than 7,000 workers at the semi-State firm, said his union members were “privileged and very lucky”. Addressing a meeting of republican group Éirígí, he said ESB staff received “gravy” during the boom that allowed them to buy “apartments in Bulgaria” and own “two or three cars”, and that they were “spoilt”.

The Group of Unions, which is made up of the five unions representing ESB workers, held a meeting yesterday to decide whether to take action against Mr Ogle. It was decided to launch an investigation, but that Mr Ogle will not be suspended from his post – meaning he will represent the firm’s staff in upcoming negotiations with ESB management.

A spokesman for Unite, Mr Ogle’s own union, told TheJournal.ie: “There are discussions beginning with ESB management and Brendan will be leading those discussions.”

He added: “There was a meeting yesterday of the Group of Unions, and it was decided that the comments would be investigated but he would remain in place.” Asked whether it was appropriate for Mr Ogle to represent staff he had described in such terms, the spokesman said: “That’s for the investigation to determine.”

Mr Ogle, whose remarks also including an acknowledgement that “I’ve got a problem with the people I represent”, yesterday issued a statement defending his words. Stressing that he had repeatedly spoken out against electricity price increases, he added that he had “consistently pointed out” to ESB staff that the downturn meant the “gravy” they enjoyed during the boom would “dry up”.

Mr Ogle also said the company was “top heavy with management positions while numbers elsewhere have been drastically reduced,” adding that he would fight for any further cuts to be “from the top down” rather than targeted at the lowest earners. He insisted that he was “accountable to the ESB staff”.

The Unite spokesperson could not give details on when the probe into Mr Ogle’s comments was due to conclude. ESB had no comment on the matter when contacted by TheJournal.ie this morning.

Watch: Union chief admits ESB staff are ‘spoilt’>

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Michael Freeman

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