80k-member union to be largest public sector representative

A planned new 80,000 member union is set to become the largest representative of staff in the public sector.

80k-member union to be largest public sector representative

A fighting fund of €50m to support members in the event of strikes or other industrial action was among the factors argued in support of the amalgamation of three existing unions to create a new organisation called Fórsa.

The vast majority of its members will be civil and public servants who are current members of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), Public Service Executive Union (PSEU), and Impact. The new union is expected to be formally established in January and requires the approval of the Registrar and Friendly Societies.

Impact announced the outcome of its membership ballot yesterday, following the results last week from the two smaller unions in separate votes that were approved by leaders of all three unions last year.

Impact described the backing for the deal as a landslide, but the 86% support was based on just a 35% turnout from among its 56,500 members who were eligible to vote. A spokesperson said it received feedback suggesting that many members felt the plan was not going to immediately or significantly impact them personally.

However, turnouts of 60% and 53% were reported in the ballots of CPSU’s 14,000 members and the 12,000 in the PSEU respectively. The CPSU members who voted backed the merger just over three-to-one (76%), slightly higher than the 70% vote in favour by PSEU.

With a combination of more than 80,000 members, Fórsa will have more public service members than Siptu, which has around 60,000 public sector employees among its membership.

Although exact numbers are not available, the new union will represent several thousand private sector workers. They include around 1,200 Aer Lingus cabin crew and pilots, currently members of Impact which also has members working for Vodafone.

Around 30,000 members of Fórsa will be working in the civil service, and another 10,000 working for local authorities. It will count a further 12,000 people in the education sector, including over 7,500 special needs’ assistants and 670 school secretaries, among its membership.

The estimated 30,000 members in the health and welfare divisions will include some staff of the community and voluntary sectors, who may also be employed in the new union’s services and enterprises division.

The union’s contingency fund, which may be used in the event of disputes, will be created by a combination of similar funds of Impact and CPSU, and from 10% of the PSEU assets. This will be supplemented by a 5% allocation from annual subscription income, with the bulk of the rest going towards general running of the union.

Impact president Pat Fallon said Fórsa will amplify the voice of workers, and not just in the public service.

“This new organisation will be stronger and better resourced than what went before, and equally determined to protect the interests of every group within the civil service and across our membership,” he said.

The annual subscription of existing members of the three unions will not be changed. New members after the formation of Fórsa will pay either €370, or 0.8% of their basic salary, whichever is lower.

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