Fórsa ([fʲoːɾʲsˠaː] Force) is an Irish trade union for public service staff. With over 80,000 members, it is the largest public service union in Ireland, and second largest trade union in the state.[2][3] It was created following a ballot of the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU), the Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union (IMPACT) and the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU) in November 2017, where the majority of each union voted to amalgamate.[4]

Fórsa union logo.svg
Founded1 January 2018 (2018-01-01)
Office locationAdelaide House, Dublin 2;
Nerneys Court, Dublin 1;
30 Merrion Square, Dublin 2[1]

Union CompositionEdit

The union represents hundreds of different grades, professions, and occupations covering about 30,000 civil servants, 30,000 health workers, 12,000 education staff, 10,000 local authority workers, and 6,500 people in semi-state organisations and private companies.[4] It contains six autonomous divisions, called:

  1. The Civil Service Division
  2. Health & Welfare
  3. Local Government
  4. Education
  5. Municipal Employees
  6. Services and Enterprises (semi and commercial semi-state agencies and companies and private sector employment)

Each division's representatives have a biennial conference where it decides its policy regarding that division. On alternate years there is a National conference for the entire union that decides on policy issues for the entire union. The union is governed by a national executive, made up of elected representatives from each of the divisions. Each division is represented on the National Executive in a manner broadly proportionate to the membership strength of each division.

Division Representatives
Civil Service Division 6
Health & Welfare Division 6
Local Government Division 3
Education Division 3
Municipal Employees Division 2
Services and Enterprises Division 3

The organization has a combined staff of 120 (67 officials and 53 administration). The three outgoing General secretaries of the predecessor unions, Tom Geragthy (PSEU), Eoin Ronayne (CPSU) and Shay Cody (IMPACT) are the initial general secretaries for Fórsa, but from 2024 this number shall be reduced to one. The union has a combined income of more than €20m a year and estimated assets of more than €80m, of which more than €50m will be held in a fund for use in disputes with employers and legal cases.[5]


Talks on forming the new union were sparked by a 2011 report of the Commission on the Trade Union Movement, which was set up by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to look at the way public service unions were organised. There were 19 unions operating across the public sector at the time. The commission recommended that unions affiliated to the ICTU that were working in common areas should collaborate more closely and explore possible mergers, so they could serve their members better and have more impact.[3]


In response to the amalgamation, Ged Nash, the Spokesperson on Employment and Social Protection for the Labour Party said "The decision by IMPACT, CPSU and PSEU to amalgamate into one union, Fórsa, is a positive move for public sector workers and for the trade union movement generally."[6] Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions described the merger as "a hugely significant and positive step forward for the trade union movement."[7]



In late 2017, the large airline company, Ryanair, which was founded in Ireland announced that for the first time it would recognise Trade unions.[8] In Ireland, Ryanair is negotiating with Fórsa and its Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa) branch.[9] Ryanair executives and Forsa met for the first time in late 2017, and again in January 2018, aiming to thrash out a "historical negotiating framework" that will later lead to talks on pilot pay and working conditions. Initial talks were described by the union as being "constructive" and that the two sides exchanged views on how a final agreement should look.[10]

On 9 January, in a letter to all Ryanair pilots employed in Dublin, chief commercial pilot officer Peter Bellew offered pilots at the base a new agreement which he said could secure them pay increases of up to 20%.[11] Pilots in Dublin had rejected an earlier deal as part of a dispute over conditions at the airline. One key issue was the refusal to recognise unions to negotiate collectively on behalf of workers. Fórsa had initially agreed to ballot the pilots, but a spokesperson described the Ryanair offer as an "interim measure" pending engagement on pay following completion of a union recognition agreement,[12] stating "the union has convened meetings with its members in Ryanair, and Fórsa has told management we will ballot on a no-strings pay package as an interim measure, pending engagement on pay following completion of a recognition agreement."[13] The union further emphasized that all future pay agreements should go through it, adding "as Fórsa is now recognised by the company for collective bargaining, pay must be negotiated with the union".

However, in February, Ryanair by-passed the union and sent an offer to individual pilots asking them to sign up to the deal which would run until 2022, a package that explicitly freezes any further pay discussions with the union, contradicting the proposed recognition of the pilots union. Consequently, the pilots union agreed not to ballot its members.[14]

Fórsa says it wants to quickly conclude a formal recognition agreement before opening talks with the airline on pay and working conditions. The union has informed Ryanair that it would reconsider putting a package to ballot if it received written assurances that Fórsa was the "sole and exclusive representative body for collective bargaining purposes including pay, terms and conditions" for Ryanair pilots employed in Ireland, assurances that accepting the package would not preclude negotiations with Fórsa on members' pay and conditions, the backdating of pay awards following pay negotiations, or any third-party recommendation being implemented.[14]

However, Ryanair continued to refuse to accept any negotiated settlement with Fórsa. Eventually, in July, Fórsa members finally agreed to actually go strike to protect their rights, the final straw being pilots seeking a basic system covering base allocation and transfer, promotion, the timing of annual leave and other issues determined by length of service.[15] 99% of pilots balloted supported going without pay and committing to an ongoing strike. In response, Ryanair sought to disrupt the union by threatening to fire 300 pilots, a move that Sinn Fein described as "bully-boy tactics" and "shameful". Fórsa described the actions by Ryanair as an "unnecessary decision" adding that it "demonstrates management's unwillingness and/or inability to implement the airline's declared intention to agree working conditions with its staff by negotiating with their chosen trade union representatives... However, the union sees today's announcement as a provocative gesture which is likely to harden pilots’ resolve."[16] Eventually Ryanair relented and went into negotiations with the union, and on 23 August an agreement was reached between both sides.[17]

Section 39 WorkersEdit

Fórsa has approved a campaign of industrial action "to win pay restoration in agencies that are funded by the public health service, but which operate independently of the HSE".[18]

A section 39 agency is an agency that an agency that receives grant funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE) for providing services. Unlike voluntary hospitals and agencies which receive HSE money to deliver services on its behalf (section 38 bodies), staff working in section 39 organisations are not public servants, do not have public service pensions and are not directly bound by Government pay policy.[19] However, traditionally staff in these agencies were linked to (or paid the same as) public sector staff, and when Public Sector pay cuts were made, these were also applied to section 39 agency staff.

However, staff in these agencies were not awarded the same pay restoration that was agreed with Public Sector staff unions in 2017. In January 2018, Fórsa joined with its sister union SIPTU, and approved a campaign of industrial action. The union said a significant number of agencies have failed to act, even though they have the money to do so – it intends to focus action on those groups.[18]

The Government then, on 30 January, agreed to a proposal to establish a process to deal with pay restoration for Section 39 workers with Fórsa. The agreement involved the Government was establishing a process to find out how many people were affected and much it would cost to resolve the issue. The process would also seek to establish which organisations had received an increased block grant but had not passed on some of that to its workers.[20] However, by July 2018 the Government had still not resolved the issue, and talks between them and Fórsa collapsed. Fórsa balloted its relevant members for a strike on 18 September, which would be alongside colleagues in SIPTU.[21]

Driving TestsEdit

In February 2018, it was reported that more than 80,000 people were waiting to be tested for their drivers license.[22]

In mid-February, the Dáil approved a Road Traffic Bill that meant that car owners who allow unaccompanied learner drivers to use their vehicles could face prosecution for the first time under new measures approved by Cabinet this week. Fórsa advised that measures in the amended Road Traffic Bill could double demand in the short term, potentially increasing driving-test waiting times up to 55 weeks. The union detailed that 25 extra driver testers should be employed permanently to meet increased demand and for another 100 testers to be hired on temporary contracts if demand surges, as expected, in response to the Road Traffic Bill.[22]


  1. ^ Fórsa, Fórsa Home Page
  2. ^ Niall Murray, 80k-member union to be largest public sector representative, Irish Examiner, 21 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b Liz Heron, Merger creates new union force in Ireland, Global Government Forum 1 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b Tim O'Brien, Three unions merge to create new Fórsa ‘super union’ for public service workers, The Irish Times, 20 November 2017.
  5. ^ Anne-Marie Walsh, Public servants vote to form superunion, Irish Independent 2 October 2017.
  6. ^ Ged Nash, Nash welcomes creation of new public sector union, Labour Party 20 November 2017.
  7. ^ Patricia King, Creation of new Fórsa public service union "highly significant and very positive", ICTU 20 November 2017.
  8. ^ Gwyn Topham, Ryanair to recognise unions to prevent pilots' strike before Christmas, The Guardian 15 December 2017.
  9. ^ John Mulligan, Ryanair to meet union again as German pilots threaten strike, Irish Independent 4 January 2018.
  10. ^ Barry O'Halloran, Ryanair talks with pilots ‘constructive’, says union, The Irish Times 3 January 2018.
  11. ^ Cormac Fitzgerald, Ryanair offers its Dublin pilots a pay rise after it agrees to recognise unions, TheJournal.ie 9 January 2018.
  12. ^ RTE, Offer of pay rise for Ryanair's Dublin pilots following union recognition, Raidió Teilifís Éireann 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ Irish Independent, Fórsa insists Ryanair must talk pay with it, Irish Independent 19 January 2018.
  14. ^ a b RTE, Ryanair pilots not prepared to ballot on pay offer, Raidió Teilifís Éireann 19 February 2018.
  15. ^ Irish Times, Ryanair pilots vote for strike action on July 12th, The Irish Times 3 July 2018.
  16. ^ Irish Mirror, Ryanair pilots strike 2018: Threat to axe 300 jobs described as 'bully-boy tactics', Daily Mirror 26 July 2018.
  17. ^ Irish Examiner, Agreement reached between pilots and Ryanair , Irish Examiner 23 August 2018.
  18. ^ a b Stephen Rogers, Fórsa latest trade union to threaten industrial action over lack of pay restoration, Irish Examiner 12 January 2018.
  19. ^ Martin Wall, Over €100,000 paid to 24 bosses at funded bodies, The Irish Times 22 July 2014.
  20. ^ Marie O'Halloran, Martin Wall Taoiseach says efforts underway to resolve Section 39 pay row, The Irish Times 31 January 2018.
  21. ^ Martin Wall Section 39 health staff to strike over pay restoration, The Irish Times 25 July 2018.
  22. ^ a b Evelyn Ring Fórsa: Hire 100 driver testers or wait times will double, Irish Examiner 16 February 2018.

External linksEdit