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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why is ESB a member of IBEC?

Much has been made in the media about the ESB decision to increase wages by 3% as a result of an agreement reached with the unions last summer. ESB management was attacked by government and IBEC for sticking to its agreement with workers. Attention has been drawn to the high cost of energy and that this increase adds to their bottom line and as a consequence makes costs higher to the consumer and IBEC members. We know this because Mr Turlough O’Sullivan of IBEC said so and much to his embarrassment he admitted his disappointment at the ESB as the ESB is a member of IBEC.
Yes you’ve read that right. The ESB a semi state utility company that provides a public service is a member of IBEC. I note from the IBEC website that IBEC works to shape policies and influence decision-making in a way that develops and protects members' interests and that We represent our members' interests to Government, state agencies, the trade unions, other national interest groups, and the general public.
This begs the question what is the ESB getting for the €150K per annum that they pay for membership of IBEC? The main shareholder in the ESB is the Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan. Why does the ESB need to pay a third party to represent it to its shareholder whose office is a stones throw away from its HQ?
Moreover IBEC is committed to a competitiveness agenda that includes concerns such as regulation, infrastructures, energy, environment, transport, public sector costs and market liberalisation.
But does the ESB actually subscribe to any of this because there doesn’t seem to be any competition in providing power to the domestic market? The say on their own website that it is our commitment to being a successful, responsible and progressive company contributing to the economic and social life of Ireland . Nothing wrong in any of that but surely such an all embracing objective conflicts with what IBEC see as their narrow sectoral focus. The ESB is making good money off the back of its domestic customers who don’t have the luxury of many IBEC members who can source electricity from the free market. Out of respect to these customers surely its time the ESB withdrew from IBEC and spent our money more wisely. At a time when we are being told to tighten our belt and make cutbacks surely this is one cutback that can be made immediately?

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