SIPTU sets up EWC-style partnership forum

During summer 1999, Ireland's largest trade union, SIPTU, is developing an internal partnership forum covering the union's 300 employees, which is to perform many of the tasks carried out by European Works Councils (EWCs).

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), Ireland's largest trade union, is in the process of establishing its own internal employee forum which is separate from the traditional industrial relations processes within the union. The role of SIPTU's staff representative council, which deals with industrial relations issues such as pay and conditions, is to remain unchanged.

The new SIPTU "partnership forum", news of which emerged in July 1999, has around 30 members and is to meet twice a year. It has two representatives of staff from each of the union's eight regions as well as representatives for its Dublin-based support staff. In many respects the forum is similar to the European Works Council (EWC) model.

On the management side, SIPTU's three top national officers are involved, as well as a representative of each of the union's various functions, such as administration, finance and the regions. The forum has an independent chair, John Dwan, a former regional secretary who retired in 1998.

The forum's constitution states that its main purpose will be "the structured establishment of a sustainable trust between staff and management which will serve the interests of maintaining and developing SIPTU as an organisation". These interests include: the provision of high-quality services to members; a "high quality" of working life for staff; and the provision of "financial stability" for the organisation.

The business of the forum is "to provide for debate, discussion and the exchange of views which will have as their aim the achievement of consensus agreement" between SIPTU management and staff (through their elected representatives) on issues of concern which they have "jointly or individually identified".

The list of items which may be discussed includes: capital expenditure and financial position; consultation ; decision-making; equal opportunities, future plans; health and safety; member services; the pension scheme; recruitment; staff training and education; and "any other issues which the forum agrees to discuss".

All decisions will be taken on a consensus basis and no votes will be taken. The outcome of each meeting is to be communicated to all staff. These reports will attempt to: build confidence in the forum itself; adhere to agreed confidentiality requirements; and recognise the need to build trust between forum members, staff and management.

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