Merger creates new union force in Ireland

By on 01/12/2017 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The creation of Fórsa, a new 80,000-strong public service union for the Republic of Ireland, will provide a strong new voice for public service workers (Image courtesy: Tony Webster).

A new 80,000-strong public service union for the Republic of Ireland is set to launch in January, after members of three unions voted overwhelmingly to merge.

Leaders of the Public Service Executive Union, the Civil, Public and Services Union, and IMPACT signed a legal agreement to form the new trade body on 20 November and lodged it with the Registrar for Friendly Societies, which is expected to ratify the merger.

In ballots over the past month, members voted in favour of amalgamating to create the larger union, which is to be called Fórsa. The votes came in at 70% in favour among PSEU members; 76% in the CPSU; and 86% in IMPACT.

Stronger together

Announcing the ballot results, PSEU general secretary Tom Geraghty said: “Today is an historic occasion for public servants, the Irish trade union movement and for all who believe in a fairer society.

“The executive committees and union activists who made this happen have every reason to take pride in their achievement. We will repay our members’ faith by building an organisation they can be proud of and by re-establishing the centrality of workers’ voices in the decisions that matter.”

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said: “Fórsa will be a progressive platform for trade unionism in Ireland. It will strengthen the hand and amplify the voice of civil and public servants and the vital services they provide.”

CPSU general secretary Eoin Ronayne said the merger will bring together thousands of similar grades of workers across the civil and public services into one organisation for the first time.

“The new union is committed to securing better terms and conditions for its members, while being determined to work for the provision of better public services for all,” he said.

A union across the public sector

Fórsa, which is Gaelic for “force”, will be the second largest union in Eire and the largest in the public sector, representing employees across the public services, semi-state organisations, community and voluntary organisations, and private companies in aviation and telecoms.

It will represent some 30,000 civil servants, amounting to more than 90% of the total, as well as 30,000 health workers, 12,000 education staff, 10,000 local authority workers and 6,500 people in the semi-state and private sectors.

Talks on forming the new union were sparked by a 2011 report of the Commission on the Trade Union Movement, which was set up by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to look at the way public service unions were organised. There were 19 unions operating across the public sector at the time.
The commission recommended that unions affiliated to the ICTU that were working in common areas should collaborate more closely and explore possible mergers, so they could serve their members better and have more impact.

ICTU general secretary Patricia King said the creation of Fórsa will help to deliver on the commission’s recommendations and provide a strong new voice for public service workers. “This is a hugely significant and positive step forward for the trade union movement,” she said.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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