The priority for SIPTU Deputy General Secretary Greg Ennis is to build membership power in the workplace.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary for the Private Sector, Greg Ennis is a man on a mission. Taking over responsibility for members in private sector employments in February his aim is clear:

“Building union density. With a particular emphasis on workplaces where SIPTU has existing collective bargaining arrangements.”

“Such an approach, where applicable, will also involve greater coordination with like-minded ICTU affiliated trade unions in workplaces, so as to maximise our collective leverage to improve the lot of all union members.”

He added: “In order to achieve this aim an emphasis will be on utilising imminent changes to industrial relations which will arise through the transposition of the EU Adequate Minimum Wage Directive later this year. This Directive is aimed at increasing collective bargaining coverage right across all sectors of the economy, including sectors which have limited trade union penetration, such as the tech sector.”

From Athboy, County Meath, Greg has a long record of union service which began thirty-eight years ago as a member of the Meath Branch of ITGWU. He was an elected shop steward in his workplace, NEC Semiconductors in County Meath, and became a SIPTU full-time official in 1998 in the Kildare/Leixlip Branch.

He won election to the position of Deputy General Secretary for members in the private sector at the recent SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference in November in Galway. Greg speaks highly of his predecessor in the role, Gerry McCormack. “Gerry was a fantastic colleague to work with and I have great admiration for what he achieved for working people throughout his years of activism on behalf of our union. Gerry is a skilled negotiator and pragmatic problem solver. His leadership and combative approach, where necessary, to industrial relations is exemplary.”

During the pandemic, as the SIPTU Manufacturing Division Organiser, Greg led a vigorous campaign to reform sickness benefit. The campaign had a particular focus on highlighting through the Oireachtas, the horrific conditions endured by red meat plant workers as Covid-19 swept through their workplaces.

The success of this campaign, Ennis believes provides a foundation for further reforms. “We need to build upon our recent successes in bringing about legislative improvements with Statutory Sick Pay”, he said. “While the reform of this benefit is welcome it extremely limited in its provisions. We must continue to seek further change in this area that will benefit our members. I also wish to achieve a significant increase in statutory redundancy entitlements from the current ceiling of €600 per week to €1000.”

Ennis believes in the need for a cohesive strategy on pay bargaining right across the private sector. “We must seek to coordinate the activities of SIPTU, and union members more generally, across our island economy. The influence of the trade union movement must be brought to bear from import to export, from raw material provision to finished product. “The coordination of our members right across the ports, airports and transport hubs will be critical to such a strategy moving forward.” On the wider direction of the union, Greg said his focus will be “on reinvigorating our local representative structure by ensuring that our activists and elected representatives receive all necessary supports to deliver for working people and their families.”

He added: “The cost-of-living crisis is extremely challenging for many of our members. This issue is far from under control with grocery inflation running at 12% for the last quarter of 2023.” He added: “Housing remains unaffordable and extortionate rents are commonplace. Members are now caught in a ‘rent versus savings deposit trap’ and successive Governments have clearly failed working people in this regard.”

His view is that core to solving these wider issues is growing the influence and membership of the trade union movement. For this to happen he says “we must achieve what should be a basic right, that is the right of all workers to be represented by a trade union of their choice. The employers will choose who represents them, and to ensure a level playing field, workers must have the same entitlement as they do in most EU countries.”