Sunday Read – A new dawn for the union
The dawn of a new era for our union commenced with the overwhelming endorsement of new structures and an ambitious development plan at a Special Delegate Conference in Liberty Hall on Thursday (25th, May).
The proposals contained in the Report and Recommendations of the SIPTU Membership Consultative Initiative 2016–2017 were approved by more than 90% of the over 360 delegates present.
Jack O’Connor said that under the current configuration the union was “fighting with one hand tied behind its back” in “a 21st-century struggle for workers with structures created in the late 19th century”.
Speaking in support of the motion endorsing the structural changes and development plan, Local Authority Sector delegate, Frank Lee, said that while the changes were needed what was essential was that activists “bring the heart back into their union work and talk to members about our relevance to them”.
The conference also decided to retain the political fund and to use it to finance political campaigns and activities. It decided that the union should continue to provide financial support for candidates in elections who sign to a Pledge committing to support the objectives and policy platform of the union. It also agreed to increase the political levy from 63 cents per year to 2 cents per week.
On the issue of the political fund, Health Support Sector Delegate, Jackie Cooke, said: “We need a political campaigning fund to be used as outlined in this report which reflects our understanding and determination that our members have a voice in society promoted by like-minded people and political forces.”
Next year will see major changes in the SIPTU leadership. The three existing executive officer positions will be replaced by a new look structure of a General Secretary and three Deputy General Secretaries each for the public service, private sector and other departments of the union.
This new structure as well as the changes to the organisation at local level and continued development in areas including communications, international contacts and the Workers Rights Centre emerged from a wide-ranging consultation process with members.
Also emerging from the plans is a renewed focus on organising among young and migrant workers. The Migrant Workers Network will be extended across the union and there will be an intensification of efforts to recruit younger workers.
SIPTU has good organisers and staff but its backbone has always been, is now, and will be into the future its Shop Stewards and members.
The future can be bright for SIPTU and workers in Ireland but only if we succeed in making clear to all that they are better off in the Union than outside it, relying on the faint hope that their bosses will adequately reward them for the profits they generate.