Siptu rejects move to end link to Labour Party

Union backs proposal for review into use of political fund put forward by executive

A bid to have the country's largest trade union sever its links with the Labour Party has failed.

At Siptu’s biennial delegate conference in Cork on Wednesday delegates voted to remit the proposal to the union’s national executive.

The move means that the union will continue to provide financial support only to members who are standing for the Labour Party in the forthcoming general election.

The conference did back a separate proposal put forward by Siptu’s national executive for a review to be carried out into the use of the union’s political fund. This issue is now to be considered at a special conference of the union in early 2017.

READ MORE

The union's education sector had proposed that Siptu should disaffiliate from the Labour Party and instead establish a relationship with community groups and parties of the left.

Addressing the conference Kieran Allen of the education sector said that while the union had decided to review the use of its political fund by 2017, there was a small matter of a general election coming within the next few weeks or months.

He said Siptu had to determine whether it wanted to be tied to the Labour Party in this election.

Mr Allen said many traditional Labour Party supporters were turning against it.

He urged that the political fund should be opened to support candidates of other parties of the left and that the Labour Party should not have a “preferred status” in the union.

“Disaffiliation would mean first we would not pay an affiliation fee to the Labour Party and it means that we would not, as we did a year ago, pay €20,000 of members ’ money to Labour Party local election candidates.”

Mr Allen argued that long-standing Siptu members were being discriminated against as they could not receive financial support from the political fund as they were not standing on a Labour Party ticket.

"We are constantly told that the Labour Party is somehow restraining Fine Gael in imposing austerity. I want to put it to you that the Labour Party is the enthusiastic and active collaborator with Fine Gael in imposing austerity."

Shirley Bradshaw of the union's arts and culture sector urged that the motion to disaffiliate should be remitted to the Siptu executive for consideration.

She argued that the motion did not provide sufficient direction as to what Siptu should do if it did sever its links with the Labour Party.

“It is not possible to simply align with unspecified parties of the left because the left is quite fragmented and certainly does not agree on everything.”

She said the review of the political fund to be carried out by 2017 would be a much better of determining the political future of the union.

Gerry Harris of the public administration division said fire fighters who he represented were listened to by a Labour Minster in government and they would not have been listened to by anybody else. He urged that the link with the Labour Party be maintained.

Tom Ryan of the Irish print group said the political fund was a great resource but the problem was it was only available to Labour candidates. He said there had been many calls for people on the left to join together but this then had to be followed up.

“I do believe that the Labour Party has failed and I believe that this fund should be opened up as there are any number of candidates out there we could support. We should be trying to align the left rather than become an adjunct to the Labour Party.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent