Trade Unions

Patterns of unionisation across Irish third-level are rather mixed. Academics tend to join different unions from administrators; which unions are strong in particular institutions is usually a product of institutional history. Students again have separate unions, based on their own institutions, though most of those local student unions are affiliated with the USI.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) (website) is a specialised academic union. Membership is open to “university teachers; researchers; staff in professional library, computer and administrative posts; and higher technicians in some institutions, part- and full-time and temporary and permanent”. Total membership is 1,758 (2008 Annual Report).

Fórsa is a public service union, formed in November 2017 by the amalgamation of IMPACT, the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU), and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU). Fórsa currently has about 80,000 members.

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) (website¦wikipedia) is a general union. In the education sector its members “include academic staff, administrative, technical and library personnel as well as catering, cleaning, maintenance and security workers”. It is Ireland’s largest union, with over 200,000 members (about a third of all unionised employees, and approaching 10% of the entire Irish workforce).

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) (website¦wikipedia) represents teachers in post-primary schools and higher education. Total membership is about 14,500.

All these unions are affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) (website¦wikpedia).

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) (website¦wikipedia) is the only national student union. It currently has about 250,000 members, across more than 40 colleges. In the North, it co-operates with the National Union of Students (UK) to represent students as NUS-USI (website¦wikipedia).

Free Education for Everyone (FEE) (website¦wikipedia) does not claim to be a union, but rather “a grassroots group of students and college staff, set up to fight the re-introduction of fees while campaigning for genuinely free education for all”. Its protests have been co-ordinated with USI.

There is also a campaigning group called Education Futures: ‘The national campaign steering group is made up of Student Unions and Trade Unions active on third level campuses across Ireland’.

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