Monday 23 April 2018

Siptu numbers plunge as €400k splurged on cars

Almost €700k spent on 'conferences' by beardies

president Jack O'Connor
IN DRIVING SEAT: Siptu president Jack O'Connor

Roisin Burke

The country's biggest trade union splashed out more than €398,000 on cars, resulting in a €1.5m collection of motors, the Sunday Independent has discovered.

For a body with 340 staff that's quite a spree. But that's not all.

The Croke Park agreement may have yielded savings, but though it has made some cuts, spending is still fairly exuberant at the trade union headed by president Jack O'Connor, latest accounts seen by this newspaper suggest.

Siptu shelled out €692,706 on conferences in 2011, almost €150,000 more than in the previous year.

There was also a €1.5m spend on expenses including transport costs, travel and subsistence, working out at more than €4,400 per employee.

A chunky 61 per cent of annual spending went towards €22m in staff costs, although that's well down on the €25m of the previous year. Its administration costs are another €1.1m, cut by €200,000 on 2010's figures.

Dwindling sign-up numbers hit coffers hard, with members' contributions dropping by €1.7m to €36.58m. It still has a war chest or general fund of more than €18m, up from €16m the previous year.

More than 12,000 fewer workers were Siptu members at the start of 2011, a drop of 5 per cent and a stark contrast to the 40,000 a year that were joining up in the boom.

There were legal fees of €405,941, following a lively year of employment disputes. Siptu refers to "a number of legal cases to which the union is a party [that] are ongoing".

The union spent €266,771 on an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation in 2010, billed as a "heritage asset" in 2011 accounts. There was a €1.5m "impairment" related to the planned redevelopment of Liberty Hall, on which €8.4m was owed to creditors, falling due within one year.

A major upgrading of the office block has been planned since 2007 -- around the time the economic world came crashing down. Siptu "remains firmly committed to the project" although it "remains in the early stages of planning".

Some €157,711 was set aside for donations to political parties. The trade union took a bath on €437,831 due to 'impairment of investments' on its €6.5m investment portfolio. Its investments are managed by Irish Life and AIB investment managers.

More than €800,000 was assigned to internal restructuring over the last two years. "During 2011, the union has continued a major process of internal transformation in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing workplace," it stated.

Referring to "assertions made by the HSE" -- relating to the €750,000 of public money that found its way into a bank account controlled by figures associated with Siptu, it states that "no liability attaches to the union in respect of the matter" and that the €697,894 of funds remaining in the account were returned to the Exchequer, and that Siptu is co-operating with the Comptroller & Auditor General's investigation into the matter.

Last week Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the Croke Park deal expires at the end of next year and that the time was right to speak about a new deal. Getting rid of non-performers and compulsory redundancies should play a part in any new deal, he said.

Referring to the car-buying spend, a Siptu spokesman said: "The fleet has been reduced from 120 in 2005 to less than 40 last year. The union has adopted a policy of not providing any new cars to staff."

Sunday Indo Business

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