SIPTU and a break-away emergency services union have entered into a legal battle over the rights to a €62,000 bank account, the Sunday Tribune has learned.
The cash reserve, collected from staff at Dublin Fire Brigade, was established in 2002 and used to finance research and training.
However, it has now become the focal point of tensions between Siptu members and those who have defected to the alternative Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) with both sides in the process of seeking legal advice.
Siptu maintains the money has always belonged to union members, not the union itself, but that those who left Siptu were no longer entitled to dictate its future use.
The IFESA maintains the money was never attached to Siptu but was rather a fund established by Dublin Fire Brigade members.
John Kidd of the IFESA said the fund was set up to assist in research and training, and to fund consultants visiting Ireland, something that Siptu had never financed.
Members traditionally contributed €1 a week and almost one- third of the 900 Dublin-based members did so.
"This was like a divorce; Siptu made the decision that it was their fund," said Kidd. "I wanted to convene a meeting [last month] and ask everyone what they wanted to do. We wanted people to show up and decide – to have a vote."
One of the obstacles to finding a solution is the question of how much of the money was contributed by existing Siptu members and how much was given by those who left to join the IFESA.
"I am trying to stop an internal row that should not happen. At the end of the day we are all firefighters," said Kidd.
However, Siptu insisted the issue was very clear. "There is absolutely no dispute at the moment," said sector organiser Paul Smyth.
"It's a fund like hundreds of others that we [Siptu] have; it's deducted out of people's wages, out of Siptu levies."
having left siptu a number of years ago due to their inept view of its members it would not supprise me if it was revieled that this fund has been missused and this is why siptu are fighting for posession as it would hide this fact. It is well known be members and officials that siptu have also got a fund of conciderable amounts from donations given by american firefighters to support the strike in the late 80's but when siptu have been approched about this the string of deflective answers starts flowing, i am not fully aware of how much is involved but believe it to be in the hundreds of thousands and with intrest probily even bigger today. This might warrent further investagation, i personaly will be making sure that all such funds which are the property of the firefighters are declared and used as the payees see fit regardless of the union. This so called break away union IFESA is far from break away it is a clear sign to both siptu and impact that their members are not happy with how they conduct buisness and lets face it over the last 9 years or more both these unions were and still are in breach of contract to its members as they do not have their members welfare and best intrests in mind and just constantly make deals behind their backs to the members detrament, e.g. pay and conditions. As a front line emergancy service firefighters seen very little of the celtic tiger or its economic boom, numbers stayed the same and wages only moved in line, or just below, the cost of living while the private sector just creamed the wealth but now we have to pay the price, we are prudant as we have a pension as part of our salery and only recieve this after 30yrs of dedacated service, after giving up half our weekends away from our families and children, but now we have to pay for something to which we have no choice and have to pay a precentage of our weekly wages towards. Apart from these funds that need to be transparent we need to remove the pension levy for public servants as it most certainly is putting families at risk, already a number of fulltime firefighters/paramedics are on family income sup and medical cards as their take home pay has nosedived below what is needed to run a household. I myself am one such person, last tax year i recieved just 46 euro for one week a month to feed, cloth and run a car for my wife and three young children and the other three weeks is not much better and now with the new usc and tax changes i would doubt i will get even that. These are just some of the things that i feel the unions have let us down badly and is it any wounder we have said enough and formed our own union to defend ourselves from any further cuts and humiliation.