The biggest union in the country is holding its conference in Galway but few members are following the proceedings.
The union has become almost invisible to the wider Irish society. The reason is that it is not seen as standing up actively for workers’ rights.
Take the issue of Palestine. The conference passed a strong resolution denouncing Israeli war crimes. One delegate said, “We must as a trade union be on the right side of history in relation to this catastrophic situation, which involves indiscriminate attacks by the Israeli Defence Forces on hospitals, ambulances, schools and places of worship, which are clear and unambiguous war crimes.’
But there has been no SIPTU presence at the huge marches in support of Palestine.
SIPTU has rightly said that there is a conflict brewing in the private sector as corporations try to push up profits at the expense of workers’ rights.
However the union has not been to the fore in encouraging workers to fight back. Instead, it has a reputation for excessive moderation.
The union has been invited to talks for a new national agreement in the public sector by Pascal O’ Donoghue.
But last time around it settled for a 3% pay rise when inflation was raging at over twice that. In reality, it was a pay cut.
This is in stark contrast to the North where thousands of workers have taken strike action for higher wages.
SIPTU should return to its roots when it was founded by Larkin and Connolly. It should be seen as a fighting union – not one that crawls before the government and the bosses. That would start with a serious fight to improve pay.