Unions building up €60m strike fund
UNIONS have built up a fighting fund worth more than €55m as fears mount for public servants' pay and pensions when the Croke Park deal runs out.
Despite a drastic fall in income from members' subscriptions since the recession, the big unions have continued to strengthen their strike accounts.
The Croke Park deal guarantees that state employees' will not suffer further cuts until 2014. But the Government has not committed to a follow-on agreement.
A survey by the Irish Independent reveals that the largest public sector union, IMPACT, which has more than 61,000 members, has a bigger dispute fund than any other union.
It now stands at just under €31m, up from €27m in 2009.
Taken with SIPTU's €19.4m 'Industrial Contingency Fund' and funds saved by smaller unions, there will be at least €60m available when the Croke Park deal ends.
The funds are on standby to cover members' lost wages in the event of work stoppages and other industrial campaigns.
One union representing 10,000 public servants has set up a strike fund "in view of the uncertainty of events post-2014".
The Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) put €1.2m, or 10pc of its assets, into the fund. This is enough to finance a strike by all members on full pay for a fortnight.
The big players are IMPACT and SIPTU, but the most militant civil service union, the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), also has a sizeable fund.
IMPACT boosted its €27.2m dispute fund by €1.2m in 2010, and increased its contribution last year to €2.4m, bringing it to €30.8m.
SIPTU, which has 65,000 public sector members, put €2m into its contingency fund between 2009 and 2010, and another €1m went in last year.
However, both unions have seen a fall in membership. In addition, subscriptions -- which are based on a percentage of salary -- have been hit because of a public sector pay cut.
IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody denied the increase in the dispute fund was linked to fears about the end of the Croke Park deal.
He said a fixed percentage of 10pc of union income goes into the fund each year, and has been built up over 70 years.
He aims to steer the union away from confrontation and has called on the Government to set up a new forum for talks, following the collapse of social partnership.
The CPSU has a fund worth "more than a couple of million", according to general secretary Eoin Ronayne.
He said union rules mean 15pc of subscriptions, or €0.5m, go into a contingency fund each year.
"There is a concern about what's going to follow the Croke Park deal but we're not making special provision for the post-agreement period as our fund is substantive enough," he said.
The Technical, Engineering and Electrical union said it has €0.5m in its dispute fund, while the Psychiatric Nurses Association said it had investments that it could access during a strike.