President Michael D Higgins celebrated Fórsa’s first national conference, and congratulated those involved in the “great task” of creating our “stronger and larger union.”
Speaking at the opening of the union’s delegate conference in Killarney, President Higgins said: “The amalgamation of the Civil and Public Service Union, the Public Service Executive Union and IMPACT has united over 80,000 members in a spirit of solidarity and comradeship.”
Recognising the contribution of public servants and their unions, President Higgins said: “Public sector trade unions have fought tirelessly, across the decades, for the achievement of equality and dignity for their members.
“You have played a significant role in the establishment of a wide variety of employment rights legislation creating an enhanced working environment for all our people, and fought discrimination in the workplace and in society.
“As public and civil servants, and as workers in strategic sectors of the economy, you are also at the very centre of three great challenges: mitigating climate change, welcoming and managing migration, and ensuring sustainable development.”
He said the battle for decent work would be among the defining struggles of the coming decades. “The success of the trade union movement will determine not just whether wages and salaries will be adequate to ensure that people can participate fully, with dignity and equality, in their society, but also whether the dignity of labour is upheld not only in the work-setting but in society.
“It will test the capacity of the trade union movement not only to organise previously unorganised, workers, but also to engage with new ideas and new practices. It will require the commitment and support of all members and those who support the extension and deepening of democracy in society,” he said.
As President, he had witnessed the “outstanding” work carried out by public servants across the country. “I have met with those whose lives have been immeasurably improved by our dedicated health service staff. I have witnessed, during the hazardous flooding that various parts of the country have experienced in recent years, the selfless response of local authority staff,” he said
“My work also allows me to regularly see the excellent work carried out by those public servants on an everyday basis who are not on the front line of service provision but who also bring to their work a dedication to public service across all areas of public life from tax administration to environmental protection, from social protection to enterprise policy,” he added.
A copy of the President's speech is available here
A livestream of the President's speech to conference is available here