Saturday 17 November 2018

Jimmy Somers

ROISIN BURKE

A HOTLY contested election saw Jimmy Somers emerge as Siptu president in 1997.

Socialist Workers Party member Carolann Duggan put the fear of God in senior officials by polling 42 per cent to Mr Somers' 56 per cent in a ballot of 180,000 members of the State's biggest union.

As Ms Duggan observed, her vote appeared to mirror the 43 per cent of Siptu members who voted against Partnership 2000, the employment and competitiveness deal. With Mr Somers at the helm, a major reorganisation of Siptu began, to win over the worrying bulk of members who were not on side.

As Siptu deputy president, Mr Somers had been a key negotiator of Partnership 2000, which ran 1997-2000. It included a 9.25 per cent pay increase for public sector workers and a package he said was worth £900m.

Mr Somers and other union leaders used maintaining Partnership 2000 and the Ansbacher and DIRT scandals as leverage to seek major tax cuts in Charlie McCreevy's 1998 Budget. Some 80,000 low-paid workers were removed from the tax net (something likely to change in Budget 2009). A further 58,000 came out of the top tax bracket.

He was at the forefront during the all-out nurses' strike in 1999 and part of the team that cut a deal to keep Tara Mines open the same year.

He retired from Siptu at the end of 1999 and took up a job at the Labour Court. He also served on the Labour Relations Commission until 2004.

In the Seventies and early Eighties, he ran as a Labour Party candidate three times in Dublin. He wasn't elected.

He is a director of Aer Lingus's pension fund and a government appointee to the National Employers' Rights Authority. Originally from Cabra, he lives in Clontarf. He turned 70 earlier this month.

Sunday Independent

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