Ictu votes to move towards ‘slimmed-down’ federal structure

Delegates argue that internal rows over the proposed Croke Park II deal exposed weaknesses in current structure

David Begg, general secretary of Ictu, at the biennial delegate conference in Belfast. Photograph: Kevin Cooper

David Begg, general secretary of Ictu, at the biennial delegate conference in Belfast. Photograph: Kevin Cooper


Ireland’s trade union movement is to draw up a new constitution that would allow it to move towards a slimmed-down structure organised on a sectoral basis.

Currently there are almost 50 trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu). The new structure could evolve over time into half a dozen or so larger bodies representing workers in particular sectors of the economy.

It is understood the reforms would be based on changes being implemented to the trade union movement in Holland.

In a closed session at the Ictu biennial conference in Belfast yesterday, delegates almost unanimously backed plans to draft a new constitution for the movement. This would be followed by a consultation period and a special conference on the proposed reforms. Informed sources said it could take up to five years to implement the proposed new structures.

Sources said a number of delegates had argued that the internal rows over the recent proposed Croke Park II deal in the public service – which came close to creating a split within Ictu – exposed the weaknesses in the current structure.

Ictu general secretary David Begg reportedly told the closed session that in relation to the Haddington Road agreement, 19 unions representing public service workers engaged in bilateral talks with the Government because the movement could not agree a collective approach.

Sources said Mr Begg also maintained that the union movement was not present in several sectors of the economy and that the existing confederal structure within Ictu resulted in duplication of resources.

It is proposed that the movement would in future be based on a federal structure organised around particular sectors of the economy, rather than a confederal structure.

The proposed plan would involve an “appropriate balance of power” between the centre and the different sectors. There would also be centralised, shared services. It is understood that Mr Begg gave delegates a briefing on developments in the Dutch trade union movement where there were four large and 15 smaller unions. Under the new federal structure in Holland big unions would disappear and members would become direct members of the new federation. However there would be no change in the membership of smaller unions.