Business Irish

Saturday 18 November 2017

Siptu sees membership plunge 10pc in two years

Jack O'Connor
Jack O'Connor

Roisin Burke

It was another year of member exodus for the country's largest trade union, new financials show, but there is still a €7.6m fund earmarked for doing up Liberty Hall.

It was another year of member exodus for the country's largest trade union, new financials show, but there is still a €7.6m fund earmarked for doing up Liberty Hall.

In the past five years, 35,500 people left the workers' rights body led by Jack O'Connor – a 15 per cent drop that exceeds the population of Leitrim.

Last year the union, which recently urged members to accept the Haddington Road Agreement which means working more hours for less money and cuts in overtime, lost over 10,578 subscribers and more than 12,000 left in 2011.

During the boom and the happy years of social partnership beloved of Bertie Ahern and his government, as many as 40,000 new members a year joined up.

Now the rate of membership drop-off has escalated sharply, with 2011 and 2012 combined shaving 10 per cent off numbers.

"The drop in membership primarily relates to the voluntary and early retirement exits from the public service in February 2012 as well as the downturn in the construction industry," Siptu's spokesman Frank Connolly said.

Though plans for a 22-storey trophy tower to replace Liberty Hall were kiboshed by An Bord Pleanala, there will instead be a revamp of the iconic 1960s building that has inspired Marmite-like affection and dislike among the Dublin populace for decades. The Liberty Hall "modernisation fund" has now been created with €7.6m assigned to it.

Membership attrition has hit the coffers hard, with a €2.6m drop in union dues. There's a €4m total loss for 2011 and 2012.

That said, an impressive cash stash remains, with the union's general fund growing to €20.8m.

Generous expenses provision for Siptu employees continues, with travel and subsistence spend increasing to €1.65m – working out at a fairly hefty €5,000 per staffer.

The union has disposed of some of its fleet of motors, but it is still valued at €1.4m.

Perhaps not surprisingly in a time of heightened industrial unrest, legal costs more than doubled to €528,346 and €237,773 was spent on "dispute benefit", accounts say.

Outlay on conferences, though cut by over €200,000 in 2012 was €481,550. That's a lot of rubber chicken dinners.

Money assigned to its political fund almost doubled to €250,975.

The latest accounts make reference to the Comptroller and Auditor General's recent finding that €600,000 of taxpayers' money from the HSE was "inappropriately" spent on travel jaunts by public employees.

Siptu says that "no liability attaches to the union" in respect of the matter and that the €697,894 remaining in the bank account connected with the matter was returned to the Exchequer. It says the CA&G's report was broadly in line with Siptu's own internal inquiry.

Siptu says that during 2012 it underwent "a major process of internal transformation in order to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing workplace" and deal more effectively with its role continued.

Irish Independent

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