Jack O’Connor has been General President of SIPTU since 2003, having been re-elected in 2006 for a second term and in 2011 for a third term.
He was also President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) from July 2009 until July 2011 and served previously as Vice President from mid-2007. He has been a member of the Executive Council of Congress since 2001.
Since he became President of SIPTU the Union has been completely restructured along Divisional lines, shifting considerable resources into Organising. His declared priorities are combating worker exploitation, promoting people’s right to participate in collective bargaining and asserting the economic, as well as the moral, superiority of the social democratic approach to which “Fairness at Work and Justice in Society” are central.
O’Connor has never served on any State Board and has always made it clear that he will never do so. This is because he believes it is inappropriate for the General President of the union to do so as it would serve to compromise the image of the union as an independent workers’ organisation.
He participated on the ICTU negotiating team for social partnership negotiations from 2002 until 2009 when the process collapsed because the Government and employers reneged on their commitments. He supported the “Croke Park Agreement” on public service pay and reform arguing that it provided protection for the lowest paid and most vulnerable public service workers.
Born in 1957, O’Connor is a native of North County Dublin. Employed in the agriculture, construction and local authority sectors, he was a trade union activist before becoming a full-time Branch Secretary of the former Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1980.
On the formation of SIPTU in January 1990, he was appointed Regional Secretary in the Midlands and in 1997 he took on the additional responsibility for the union’s South-East Region. In contrast to his earlier trade union experience, the workers he represented during this phase of his union involvement were predominantly employed in the private sector. He was elected as SIPTU’s Vice President in 2000.
Identifying strongly with the Congress “Better Fairer Way Campaign”, he opposes the deflationary economic strategy, which he believes is destroying jobs and aggravating economic difficulties. He is a long-time member of the Labour Party.