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Siptu 'expels hundreds of ESB members' for allegedly transferring from another union

550 workers left the electrical union Connect in March of 2017.

shutterstock_699050578 Source: Shutterstock

UNION SIPTU HAS removed many of its members for allegedly transferring from another union last year.

The decision to suspend the membership of those workers, all of whom are employees of the ESB, was first conveyed to them in late May. All ceased to be members of Siptu as of Friday, 20 July.

Sources claim that as many as 250 members were expelled from the union. Siptu has denied the figure is that high.

“I can’t say how many it was, all I can say is it’s not the quantum that’s being suggested,” Willie Noone, energy sector organiser with Siptu, told TheJournal.ie.

Some 550 members had initially left the electrical trade union the TEEU (Technical Electrical and Engineering Union) in February of last year in the wake of a pay agreement for new employees being reached between the union and the ESB.

Subsequently, the performance of the union during that process was called into question by some members, leading to the mass exodus.

In leaving, the 550 employees sought to resign their membership from the TEEU (now known as  Connect), and requested that all data held on them by the union be deleted, in order to facilitate their joining of another union.

Transferring between the two unions is prohibited by a deal known as the TUF (Trade Union Federation) agreement. The workers saw their actions as a case of resigning their membership, as opposed to an attempted transfer.

File Pics Staff at the ESB have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in a row over a 1.6 billion deficit in the company pension scheme. Source: Gareth Chaney/Rollingnews.ie

Agreement

It is the TUF agreement which was cited by Siptu when informing the members that their membership would not be tenable given where they had come from.

“We’re the innocent party in this,” said Noone. “When these workers looked to move across we wrote to Congress for permission. TEEU responded and objected. We have a good working relationship with Connect, so we said ‘fine, we won’t take them’.”

It turns out there were problems within that union. But if you have an issue you try and resolve it internally before trying to join another union.
And they’ve (the workers) been shouting and roaring to join a trade union of their choice, they say they’ve a constitutional right, and they have that right, but if a trade union says we don’t want you, well that’s why you have to apply to join, you don’t have a god-given right.
Like I can’t join the teachers union tomorrow. Some of them think you have a god-given right.

Some of the workers expelled from Siptu claim that the action resulted from a complaint being made to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) regarding the movement of those workers.

The ICTU denied to TheJournal.ie that any such complaint had been made.

“There was no complaint to Congress,” said Noone. “It was directly between ourselves and TEEU.”

Both Siptu and the TEEU are members of the four-strong Group of Unions (GOU).

“If either union objects/disagrees to the other union taking into membership current or previous members, then at the request of either union, the member must be returned to the original union,” a Siptu organiser told workers in their letter of expulsion on 25 May.

It is vital that workers are organised in a union to protect their own interests and we respectfully encourage you to re-join/join TEEU/Connect to afford yourself and your colleagues such protection.

A request for comment from Connect had not been answered prior to publication.

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