(en) Election result upsets bureaucracy of Irelands largest uni

Andrew Flood (ANFLOOD@macollamh.ucd.ie)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 14:55:30 +0100 (BST)

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Dublin, Ireland, 11-4-97

Election result upsets bureaucracy of Ireland's largest union.

SIPTU is a general union to which about 30% of Irelands unionised workforce belongs. The SIPTU bureaucracy has had something of an upset when Carolann Duggan who ran as a rank and file candidate for the union presidency received 42% of the votes cast. She was running against the unions vice-President Jimmy Somers.

Carolann is an assembly line worker who earns 13,000 Irish pounds (21,000 dollars) a year. The exact salaries of SIPTU bureaucrats are unknown but Summers probably earned at least 56,000 pounds (90,000 dollars). As President he will receive 74,000 pounds (118,000 dollars). Most SIPTU members including this writer have earnings similar or below Carolann's. These grossly inflated earnings of SIPTU bureaucrats are typical of unions internationally. They put the bureaucracy on the same social level as the ruling class rather then those they supposedly represent.

It is probably significant that in SIPTU nearly the same percentage voted against 'Partnership 2000' a recent three year deal promising industrial peace with the bosses and state in return for no strikes and acceptance of anti-union laws and deteriorating working conditions. Despite the fact that the bureaucracy has complete control of union publications and only allows one side of the argument to be heard a growing percentage of members are voting against them.

According to Carolann in an interview with the Irish Times "The economy is booming, the bosses are making a mint, the banks are making millions. Workers have created that wealth and we're getting nothing."

The actual post of Presidency is at the top of a huge bureaucratic mess that is SPITU. There is no mechanism for the post to be answerable to the membership. While this does not present an obstacle to Leninist organisations like the SWP of which Carolann is a member it is one of the reasons why Irish anarchists did not support her campaign. Anarchists believe its important to work instead at the rank and file level of the unions and to only accept posts that are subject to the mandate and recall of the membership. Seizing positions of power is not the road to change the nature of the Irish unions, rather such positions must be abolished.

The result is still significant as an indication of the dis-satisfaction of many SIPTU members with the bureaucracy and its strategy of national consensus typified by 'Partnership 2000'. It is another indication that despite the extreme disorganisation of the left (all the far left groups in Ireland are tiny) many workers are looking for ways to express their opposition to the idea of social partnership. So far while strike waves have rocked almost every European country in opposition to the neoliberal cuts imposed by the needs of European Union Irish workers have for the most part stood by and 'taken their medicine'. This vote is a warning to the bosses that this may change in the near future.

More information: A pamphlet detailing the case against 'Partnership 2000' and more articles on unions in Ireland can be found at


This article was written for A-Infos by anarchist and SIPTU member Andrew Flood. The views expressed are those of the author alone. *************************** About me -> http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2419/andrew.html

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