Belfast Telegraph

ESB to axe 1,000 jobs after staff back cuts

By Louise Hogan

About 1,000 job losses have been confirmed at Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) parent ESB after workers voted in favour of a cost-cutting programme.

Over 6,000 staff at the semi-state Irish company were balloted on the voluntary severance scheme, the centrepiece of ESB's plan to reduce payroll costs by €140m (£115m) over four years. Around 63% voted in favour.

A spokesman for ESB said no jobs are at risk at NIE.

The €140m annual payroll savings include 700 voluntary redundancies, while a further 300 people who are due to retire by 2015 will not be replaced.

John Campion, ESB executive director, welcomed the vote in favour of the payroll reductions last night.

He said it involved a package of earnings reductions and cuts in staff numbers and followed intensive negotiations between ESB management and the Group of Unions.

"This will ensure that the company can continue to invest in national critical infrastructure, while remaining competitive in electricity and gas markets," Mr Campion said.

The proposed measures would bring ESB staff numbers down from 6,700 to 5,700.

The company confirmed that the voluntary severance scheme opens from today and will close at the end of May, with approvals due to be completed by the end of July.

Those aged between 50 and 60 will have their pension benefits, including lump sums, deferred until they reach the age of 65. They will get a severance payment up front, on a sliding scale, depending on their length of service.