Siptu to call for referendum on collective bargaining rights

Jack O’Connor to step down as president of State’s largest union after 14 years

Siptu, the State's largest trade union, will this week call for the Government to hold a referendum to give unions rights to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of their members.

Under Irish law while unions have the right to organise workers, employers also have the right not to recognise unions for the purposes of collective bargaining.

However, Siptu’s bienniel conference, which commences in Cork on Monday, will debate a motion calling for a referendum to be held to provide workers with a constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining.

Siptu president Jack O'Connor, who is to step down in the weeks ahead after 14 years in the post, will address the conference on Monday evening. The current Siptu vice president Gene Mealy is also scheduled to retire shortly.


Major reforms are to be put in place within Siptu which will see the current three-person top level team in the union replaced by a single general secretary.


Siptu's current national head of organising Joe Cunningham is tipped to succeed general secretary Joe O'Flynn in the future.

Three deputy general secretaries of the union are expected to be appointed with one covering the private sector, another the public sector and a third in charge of campaigns and organising.

Union sources suggested that Gerry McCormick, John King and Ethel Buckley would be ratified to these new posts at the conference this week.

The Siptu annual report, which will be given to delegates at the conference, shows the union’s membership increased by about 3,000 to 203,000 between 2015 and last year.

The report says the union’s top national executive officers are paid €108,384 per year while divisional organisers - the next highest grade - receive €84,142 per year.

The report says that national officers in 2013 voluntarily waived a percentage of salary that was equivalent ot the cuts imposed by the Haddington Road agreement for staff in the public service. It says the position “has not changed since”.

It says the pension benefit receivable on retirement “was reduced by 20 per cent and the provision for any pension increase was removed following the issuing of a Section 50 order by the Pensions Authority”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

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