Luxurious all expenses paid trips SIPTU/HSE training fund scandal

Published Categorized as Uncategorized
By Michael O’Brien (The Socialist July 2010)

The investigation being carried out by the HSE into the misuse of some of the €60 million fund negotiated by SIPTU for the upskilling of non-medical staff in the health service show us again the extent to which leading trade union officials have integrated themselves with the establishment.
It is entirely legitimate for the trade union movement to campaign for public resources for the education and training of members particularly those whose needs might include literacy, English language skills and essential life skills like computer courses.

However the stories that have emanated from the HSE that over €2 million found its way into a SIPTU named account that has been spent on unaccounted for foreign trips to the US, Australia , Hong Kong and beyond involving union officials and Department of Health and HSE officials. If these allegations are true then this is a major scandal as it seems that trade union officials have been using money allocated for training workers as a “slush fund? to finance de facto luxurious “holidays? for themselves and senior management at the HSE and Department of Health.

This investigation comes after the clearing out of the Board of FAS of all trade union representatives like Peter McLoone who alongside IBEC and government representatives and their spouses were living high on the hog.

The presence of high ranking trade union officials on state boards and a situation where they end up travelling the world with employer and government representatives is where the policy of Social Partnership has taken them. The argument goes that the presence of union leaders on the boards of state bodies and the general hobnobbing and jet setting that goes means workers gain influence at the top of society. This is nonsense when you consider that ICTU General Secretary David Begg has sat on the board of Aer Lingus when privatisation and countless attacks on jobs and working conditions has taken place and also on the board of the Central Bank when the crookery and mismanagement in the financial sector which exacerbated the scale of the crisis in this country.

Rather than obtaining influence in the interests of workers these trade union leaders went fully “native? among the representatives of the bosses whose system has brought us mass unemployment and savage wage cuts.

This illusion of influence is now being perpetrated in the North where Sinn Féin Minister Conor Murphy has appointed ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting to the Board of Northern Ireland Water where privatisation and water charges are on the agenda.

Many of the very senior trade union officials are now part of the establishment cartel that uses it position to gain access to significant perks and extra financial allowances – they have their “snouts in the trough? and are milking the system for all they can get. Another of the many reasons why most of them should be cleared out. Which is why the Socialist Party is calling for the election of all full time trade union officials to be paid the average wage of the members they represent. Make them accountable to the members not the government and the bosses!

Michael is a former regional co-ordinator of the SIPTU/FAS Union Learning Initiative