General Secretary: Joe Cunningham


“A strong and well organised SIPTU is essential for the proper shaping of the debate around what decent work means in terms of proper wages and conditions. This will not only benefit those organised in our union but all workers and society in general.”

Joe first became involved in the trade union movement over 30 years ago as an activist while employed by Lydon House, a catering and events company based in Galway. Following a period as a senior shop steward he was elected to the Western Area Branch Committee of the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland (FWUI).

His expertise at representing and organising workers at enterprise level soon saw him appointed to a position as a full-time official with responsibility for FWUI members in the Western Area, which covered all the counties along the west coast from Cork to Donegal. At the merger of the FWUI and the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union to form SIPTU in 1990, Joe was appointed as an official in the Midlands Region.

Since the establishment of SIPTU, Joe has fulfilledna wide array of prominent roles within the union, representing and organising public, private and community sector workers in both jurisdictions on the island. As a Branch Secretary he has led the Offaly Branch, the Mayo No. 1 Branch and Galway No. 2 Branch. Following successful tenures in these roles he was appointed as the Regional Secretary for the Western Region and later the Northern Region.

In these positions he amassed extensive experience in conducting industrial disputes and reaching agreements to the benefit of members. This included central involvement in major private sector negotiation processes including the restructuring of Shannon Airport, securing decent redundancy terms for former members at the Asahi synthetic fibre plant in North Mayo and major rationalisations in Atlantic Mills and Dairygold. He has also represented public service workers in the education sector and local authorities, as well as in semi-state enterprises and community sector employees.

A member of the SIPTU Strategic Management Team for 20 years, Joe is a respected figure in the Irish and international trade union movement. In recent years, he has been elected and appointed to a number of important roles in several international trade union federations, as well as a representative of SIPTU on the ICTU Executive Council and as a member of the Governing Body of the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology.

Following the restructuring of the union in 2010, he was appointed to the critical role of Head of the Strategic Organising Department. In this position he has formulated and co-ordinated successful organising campaigns which have brought thousands of new members into the union from a diverse spectrum of working backgrounds. These have ranged from Home Helps, to mushroom industry workers to retail and security staff in Northern Ireland.

The chair of the Technical Group which supported the Steering Committee that oversaw the membership consultative initiative, he has played a central role in formulating the strategic plan for the future of our union.

In recent years, Joe has worked between Liberty Hall and the union’s western headquarters in his native Galway. He is a fluent Irish speaker.