A number of network technicians employed with the ESB are holding pickets outside a number of branches in both Cork city and county.
The technicians are currently engaged in industrial action in the form of a work-to-rule, over a 24-hour period which commenced at 8am this morning and is due to conclude at 8am tomorrow, Saturday, April 24.
A spokesperson for the Independent Workers Union who represents the striking technicians told The Echo: “There are approximately 1250 Network Technicians employed by the ESB, whose job it is to ensure that power supplies get from generation plants to all homes and businesses throughout the state. Over 500 of these technicians are members of the Independent Workers Union, who are leading the strike in the fight against privatisation.”
The spokesperson claims that the technicians work is being handed out to private contractors.
“The technicians have not been consulted as is required by the Consultation and Information Act 2006 as to what areas of their work are to be contracted out. They have refused to cooperate with the process since last Monday.
“Starting on Friday, April 23, they have organised a series of work stoppages, in order to prevent the elimination of their jobs, the abandonment of apprenticeship training and the eventual privatisation of the company."
The spokesperson concluded: “Government and management are afraid of a public backlash if they openly declare their desire to privatise one of Ireland's greatest success stories and have therefore decided to embark on a backdoor method of privatisation.”
A spokesperson for ESB Networks responded by saying the ‘action is unlawful’.
“ESB Networks is aware that Network Technicians who are members of the Independent Workers Union are currently engaged in industrial action in the form of a work-to-rule. This action is unlawful because IWU has balloted its members to progress a claim that has not been made to ESB or the Labour Court.
"This is a legal matter, and we are dealing with it as such. The IWU is not affiliated to either the ESB Group of Unions (GoU) or the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).”
The ESB spokesperson said they will continue to engage with all their employees and there will be limited impact on customers.
“We continue to deal with our recognised trade unions through the long-established industrial relations framework, which has supported ESB and employees in meeting the challenges of changing energy industry. We continue to engage with all of our employees through normal work channels. The four unions affiliated with the ESB GoU have confirmed that they are not in dispute with ESB and will continue to provide emergency cover.
“ESB Networks can confirm that there has been a limited impact to electricity customers as a result of the industrial action to date.”
The spokesperson for the ESB said they are committed to ‘resolving this matter’. “ESB Networks continues to monitor the situation closely and ensure that the necessary contingency plans are in place to minimise the effects on its operations and customers as much as possible.
“ESB Networks remains committed to resolving this matter. It is exploring all options, and has notified the IWU that it intends to take legal action in relation to this dispute.”