Largest mobilisation of union members in decades to take place for Trade Union Week 

Thirty years since the introduction of the May Day Bank Holiday, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has today (14.02.24) announced Ireland’s first Trade Union Week, which will take place between 29 April and 6 May 2024. ICTU said the week of coordinated events in workplaces and local communities across the island of Ireland will be “the largest mobilisation of trade union members in decades”, with an open invitation extended to all workers to take part.

Trade Union Week will mark the culmination of ICTU’s Better in a Trade Union campaign, which was launched this month to promote the values and benefits of trade union membership. Featuring public and private sector workers from across the island of Ireland, the Better in a Trade Union campaign highlights benefits such as enhanced job security, advice and support, improved terms and conditions of employment, and better pay.

Almost half of young workers would join a trade union 

In a recent RED C omnibus poll, 44% of 18-34-year-olds in employment stated they would be interested in joining a union. Their leading reasons for doing so were that trade unions:

  • Provide employment protection in the workplace, and
  • Negotiate better pay and conditions.

Speaking at today’s launch, ICTU General Secretary Owen Reidy said union members benefit from higher wages than non-unionised workers, and there is a growing awareness among young workers, in particular, of the benefits of trade unions.

We know that everyone is better in a trade union, and there’s a cohort of younger workers, in particular, who recognise the need to have someone in their corner, fighting for employment protections, better pay and working conditions,” he said. “They understand that these rights are only achieved through collective action, so Trade Union Week is our call to everyone to get involved.

For young people, trade unions provide hope in helping them navigate the mounting socio-economic challenges for their generation – such as the housing and climate crises. They also recognise the power of collective bargaining, and how it leads to better rates of pay.

In our recent RED C poll, we asked people why they hadn’t yet joined a trade union, and the most common response was ‘nobody ever asked me to’. The Better in a Trade Union campaign, culminating in Trade Union Week, is our ask to everyone – come to a Trade Union Week event, speak to a union rep in your workplace, find out more on You will find a union that will fight for your rights to better pay, working conditions and job security.

Legislation required to support collective bargaining 

Mr. Reidy said that, in Ireland, private-sector workers wishing to join a union can face opposition from their employers.

We want to shine a spotlight on the fact that, in Ireland, unlike in most EU countries, many private sector employers have a veto over their workers accessing unions and collective bargaining,” he said. “This is wrong and must change. Research has shown that hundreds of thousands of workers want to join and know they are better in a trade union. They must no longer be denied this right.

It will be the responsibility of this Government, and the Government to follow over the coming year, to fulfil Ireland’s obligations to deliver the EU Adequate Minimum Wages Directive. This will improve living standards and working conditions, but, crucially, it will also promote collective bargaining as a means to wage setting. This is the most significant and progressive legislation to emerge from the EU in a generation.

The trade union movement has achieved a lot for workers over the last 100 years but there is still much to do to achieve real economic and social equality across Ireland. We only have to look to the recent record-breaking day of action by our colleagues in Northern Ireland to see how relevant the work of trade unions is in fighting for better pay and fairer working conditions.

Ciara Leddy, a teacher and a member of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), said:

I think it’s so important to keep what we have and to keep pushing on. I think the landscape is really changing for young workers and there will be so many big differences in the workforce as we move on. Jobs that we thought would be forever are going to be gone, and jobs that we never could have imagined will become the norm. “With so much change in different sectors and industries, it’s really important to be part of a group that represents workers.

Supporting the collective bargaining potential of union membership, Victoria Nikitina, a contract cleaner and a member of SIPTU said:

Being a member of a union is incredible. This is the future. In a union, you can find a common interest with people, and it’s all about equality. Joining a trade union helps you learn that there are other people out there like you. When you are in a group, it’s a lot easier to come up with solutions and make a plan of action. It’s very empowering.

Trade Union Week activities will take place in workplaces and local communities between Monday, 29th April and Friday, 3rd May, including information stalls and social events, activities in schools, colleges and universities, and public talks, table quizzes and film screenings.

For more information, visit