Firefighters and Ambulance crews desert SIPTU

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Firefighters and ambulance crews are abandoning SIPTU and signing up with the Psychiatric Nurses Association to form a new union.  Des Kavanagh , general secretary of the PNA, says he expects about 2,500 new members to sign up in the next month or so.

Each Union in the State has a licence that demarcates it’s ambit in terms of who it represents, e.g. plumbers, painters etc. However a number of years ago the Cork Operative Butchers Society successfully amended it’s licence to add the phrase “and General Workers Union” and thus the Independent Workers Union was born with full organising rights. The precedent was set.

The Union is saying that its first focus will be protecting frontline services and will be moving on to fighting for wages and conditions as it gets up and running.

The announcement represents a huge blow to the current leadership of SIPTU who have been heavy on rhetoric but piss-poor on action for sometime now. Whether it leads to any heart searching in the SIPTU leadership or a challenge from disgruntled members remains to be seen. A union with as many highly-paid staff as SIPTU cannot afford to shed members in such large numbers as it will provoke a financial crisis, on top of currently existing crises; the lack of confidence in the leadership and the absence of a useful strategy.

WORDS: James McBarron