Irish unions announce first trade union week

The week of coordinated events in workplaces and local communities across the island of Ireland could be “the largest mobilisation of trade union members in decades”.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has announced plans to hold Ireland’s first-ever Trade Union Week taking place from 29 April to 6 May 2024. ICTU said the week of coordinated events in workplaces and local communities across the island of Ireland will be “the largest mobilisation of trade union members in decades”. The action is supported by UNI’s Irish affiliates such as CWU, SIPTU, FSU and FORSA.

Trade Union Week will mark the culmination of ICTU’s Better in a Trade Union campaign, which was launched this month to promote the values and benefits of trade union membership. Featuring public and private sector workers from across the island of Ireland, the Better in a Trade Union campaign highlights benefits such as enhanced job security, advice and support, improved terms and conditions of employment, and better pay.

Almost half of young workers would join a trade union

In a recent RED C omnibus poll, 44 per cent of 18-34-year-olds in employment stated they would be interested in joining a union. Their leading reasons for doing so were that trade unions provide employment protection in the workplace, and negotiate better pay and conditions. When asked why they had not yet joined a trade union, the most common response was ‘nobody ever asked me to’.

Speaking at the launch, ICTU General Secretary Owen Reidy said union members benefit from higher wages than non-unionised workers, and there is a growing awareness among young workers, in particular, of the benefits of trade unions.

“We know that everyone is better in a trade union, and there’s a cohort of younger workers, in particular, who recognise the need to have someone in their corner, fighting for employment protections, better pay and working conditions,” he said. “They understand that these rights are only achieved through collective action, so Trade Union Week is our call to everyone to get involved.

Legislation required to support collective bargaining

Reidy said that, in Ireland, private-sector workers wishing to join a union can face opposition from their employers.

“We want to shine a spotlight on the fact that, in Ireland, unlike in most EU countries, many private sector employers have a veto over their workers accessing unions and collective bargaining,” he said. “This is wrong and must change. Research has shown that hundreds of thousands of workers want to join and know they are better in a trade union. They must no longer be denied this right.”

Over the past few years, UNI Europa has campaigned to move forward through collective bargaining and, together with the European trade union movement, succeeded in getting the EU’s directive on minimum wages passed. The legislation sets an 80 per cent target for collective bargaining coverage in EU member states. Where, like Ireland, this target is not reached, barriers to collective bargaining must be addressed in national action plans. Therefore, it is a powerful tool to dramatically improve the situation of Irish workers.

Reidy said: “It will be the responsibility of this Government, and the Government to follow over the coming year, to fulfil Ireland’s obligations to deliver the EU Adequate Minimum Wages Directive. This will improve living standards and working conditions, but, crucially, it will also promote collective bargaining as a means to wage setting. This is the most significant and progressive legislation to emerge from the EU in a generation.”

UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig commented: “The ICTU’s campaign Better in a Trade Union comes just at the right time. First, there is huge appetite among young people in Ireland to be part of a union and fight collectively for better pay and conditions. Second, we have a unique opportunity with the EU minimum wage legislation to make joining a union and engaging in collective bargaining – especially in the private sector – much easier. That’s the only way Ireland can reach 80 per cent collective bargaining coverage. Third, with the ICTU’s campaign we are escalating our fight for stronger trade unions and collective bargaining towards our quadrennial Conference in Belfast in March 2025. So, when trade unionist from across Europe come together in Belfast, we will be able to celebrate the successes of our movement in Ireland and beyond.”

Visit to learn more about the Better in a Trade Union campaign and check out testimonials from union members.