Eirgrid: its 225 staff earn about 30% more than ESB workers

ESB WORKERS appear to have lost their crown as the best-paid staff in a state-owned enterprise after it emerged that employees at Eirgrid, the national grid operator, each earn over €82,000, including pension contribution, on average per year.

According to Eirgrid's latest annual report, published last week, the operator's 225 staff earned the money in the first nine months of 2008.

Calculated on a full-year basis, they would have received an average of €109,462 each, assuming their salaries remained unchanged in the remaining three months of the year.

By contrast, their counterparts at the ESB earned an average of €76,259 each during 2007, the latest year for which figures are available.

An Eirgrid spokesman said the wages and salaries it paid reflected the fact that the skills and experience it needed were scarce domestically and internationally. "EirGrid is engaged in a 24/7 operation, 365 days a year which is vital for the Irish economy. The work of our staff involves operating the power system and market, balancing supply and demand at all times, and maintaining security of supply, as well as planning and developing the power system."

The spokesman added that the company hadn't paid the increases due under the latest national wage agreement and chief executive Dermot Byrne had taken a voluntary 10% pay cut on 1 January.

Despite last week's 10% reduction in electricity prices, Irish power prices remain among the highest in Europe and have been blamed for Ireland's continuing lack of export competitiveness.

The Small Firms Association has called for a review of the regulation of the entire energy market.