Mid-ranking civil servants have voiced concern about proposals to create a super-union to represent civil servants.
Delegates attending the annual conference of the Public Service Executive Union in Galway received a presentation on the proposal to merge the PSEU, IMPACT and the Civil Public & Service Union, resulting in a body that would have 80,000 members.
General Secretary Tom Geraghty said that while public servants had the same government employer, they were represented by 20 different unions who could scarcely agree on when to break for coffee.
He said an ICTU commission on trade unions had been damning about how fragmented the trade union movement was, with too many unions.
The new body, he said, would have greater negotiating power on behalf of civil servants in dealing with government.
But he sought to reassure members that they would continue to have a significant voice and representation in the new merged body, despite the PSEU and the CPSU only having around 10,000 members each, but with IMPACT having 60,000.
It was now hoped, he said, that members in the three unions might be balloted about the merger by October but there would be potential to review the merger up to 2024.
He said the new union would have a new €50 million contingency fund for strikes and legal cases, and would have €35 million in ordinary assets for day-to-day activities.
He said a financial review of the three unions involved by Mazars accountants would be available within weeks, but had so far flagged no problematic issues of significance during due diligence.
However, delegates voiced concerns.
However, Martin Kehoe of the Department of Social Protection described the project as a total load of rubbish - as members would have to go through several layers in the new union to have their voice heard, and would end up being a "little voice in the corner".
He said IMPACT would not care about their issues.
John O'Donovan of Revenue feared that with IMPACT having 60,000 members, the power of PSEU members and officials would be diluted.
He feared that IMPACT would want available government resources to be allocated to health and local authorities where they had members rather than to pay restoration for civil servants.
Fran Ryan of Revenue described the merger as a vanity project for trade union leaders.
Paula Fitzpatrick of the Property Registration Authority feared that they were going too big, too fast, and argued for one union representing just civil servants, but not other public servants.
Amanda O'Hara of the Department of Social Protection said everything about the merger needed to be looked at, including how it would affect members on the ground, before creating a final document for balloting on.
Delegates also raised queries about future subscription rates, and the relative assets, liabilities and membership numbers of the three unions.
Mr Geraghty said he was not there to make a sales pitch or to push anything down anyone's throat but to give people the background to the merger. If the merger were rejected life would move on, he said.
He said that he understood that at the recent conference of the CPSU which represents lower-paid civil servants, delegates' chief concern was being in the same union as PSEU members who were their bosses.
Delegates passed a number of motions calling for clear information for members on the implications of the merger, and an orderly debate and subsequent ballot on the issue.