Sunday 15 September 2019

Public servants vote to form superunion

Merger to create 'the most powerful union, with substantial financial muscle'

PSEU general secretary Tom Geraghty. Photo: Frank McGrath
PSEU general secretary Tom Geraghty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anne-Marie Walsh

More than 80,000 public servants from three unions are set to ballot on merging into a new superunion called Fórsa, which will have a war chest of over €50m for industrial action.

Members of Impact, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) and Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) will begin voting in the coming weeks on whether to join what would become the largest union for public servants and the dominant force representing State workers at government talks.

Talks on the new union, which would represent more than 90pc of staff in the civil service alone, have been ongoing for five years.

In an 'important information note' to his members, PSEU general secretary Tom Geraghty said the new union would be named Fórsa, the Irish word for force.

He noted that a Commission of Trade Unions, established by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, found that the way public service unions were organised was serving their members poorly and recommended a merger.

He said the commission began its work in the aftermath of two cuts in income for public servants in 2009 and the following year.

"A conversation began as to whether the manner in which public service unions were organised was the best means of protecting members," he said.

"[The talk covered] whether a fragmented, grade-based structure in the civil service and organisations that grew from the civil service, that dates from the late 19th Century was, necessarily, the best means of dealing with a single employer and whether 19 different unions across the public service was the best way of dealing with a determined single employer."

He said the proposed new union would be the largest representing public servants. "It will, therefore, become the national 'go-to' voice for public servants. More importantly, it would be the key player in any national public service negotiations. In short it would become the most powerful, the most significant and the most important union in such discussions," said Mr Geraghty.

He said the new union would have a combined income of more than €20m a year and estimated assets of more than €80m, of which more than €50m will be held in a fund for use in disputes with employers and legal cases.

"To put it at its crudest, the new union will not just have the industrial muscle of large membership numbers, it will have substantial financial muscle to back up this industrial strength," he said.

The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants and the Veterinary Officers Association, which were part of the project at the start, have since dropped out.

All members of the new organisation will be on a subscription rate of 0.8pc of their salary 'capped' at €370 a year.

Initially, the union would be fronted by three general secretaries, but eventually one general secretary and two deputies.

Balloting will end next month and if all unions vote in favour, the new union would be created from January 1 next year.

Irish Independent

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