Cardiff, Patrick Joseph ('Paddy') (1925–2005), trade union leader, was born 8 November 1925 at 11 Upper Basin Street, near James's Street, Dublin, third child and second son among five sons and one daughter of Patrick Cardiff (d. 1945), a foundry labourer, and later a boiler scaler in the Guinness brewery, and his wife Catherine (née Maguire); both parents were active trade unionists. His father, one of four brothers who saw military service, fought with the British army in the first world war, and was wounded in the Dardanelles campaign. Educated at James's Street CBS, Cardiff left school at age 13, and worked for several years at various jobs: around the markets, in a heel-tip factory, and with a wholesale poultry and egg business. Enlisting in the British army (1944–8), he served in India during and after the second world war; based in Assam in 1944, he volunteered for parachute duty in Burma and briefly saw action before breaking both ankles. Though appointed lance corporal and lance sergeant, he was demobilised as a private, owing to his defiance of what he regarded as unjust authority. Nonetheless, Cardiff's military service cultivated leadership skills, and instilled a belief in the efficacy of discipline, organisation, and informed decision, and a commitment to European unity and international working-class solidarity in pursuit of progressive social values.
Returning home to Dublin, Cardiff worked for seven months as a builder's labourer, before securing a permanent labouring job in the Guinness brewery, where he became involved in organising efforts of the Workers' Union of Ireland (WUI). With its long-established model of paternalistic capitalism, the Guinness company – described by the WUI as an 'hitherto impregnable fortress' (Ward-Perkins, 112) – was traditionally hostile to trade-unionism, and the organising campaign encountered stiff resistance from management and many workers. On at least one occasion differences over the issue erupted into fisticuffs, at which Cardiff – who had contemplated a career as a lightweight boxer – was adept. Though the Guinness workforce rejected the WUI in a 1949 plebiscite, organising continued, finding an especially receptive constituency among those workers – many of them ex-British-servicemen such as Cardiff – alienated by the company's preferential system of hiring and promotion. A second plebiscite (1952) produced a small pro-union majority, and ensuing negotiations culminated in the company's recognition of the WUI.
Made a shop steward in 1955, Cardiff helped develop WUI structures within Guinness, and served as chairman of the Guinness section's education committee. He soon became a chief shop steward, and was elected to the WUI general executive committee (1961, 1963). He attended the Jesuit-run Catholic Workers' College (CWC), taking a diploma in social and economic studies, and latterly lectured at the college on industrial relations. His CWC connections led to accusations by labour-movement leftists that he was unduly influenced by catholic social teaching; Cardiff maintained that he gleaned from the CWC curriculum what he found useful, and disregarded whatever conflicted with his own 'constitutional socialist' politics. Though joining the Labour party on the WUI's re-affiliation in 1964, he was firmly opposed to combining trade-union and political activism; alert to the often conflicting interests and objectives of the two wings of the labour movement, he was especially suspicious of those who would exploit trade unions to advance political agendas, often in ways that were inimical to workers' immediate industrial and economic interests.
In 1964 Cardiff became a full-time WUI official when appointed secretary of the union's sugar, confectionery, and food processing branch, comprising some 3,000 members. He was soon embroiled in a major dispute over basic wages, involving coordination with other trade unions active in the sector, and culminating in a strike that secured a modest wage increase. Cardiff then launched a campaign of negotiations with employers to address long-standing anomalies in rates and conditions. The agreements reached – once again in concert with other interested unions, but without recourse to strike action – reverberated into related industries, such as dairying, and were especially notable in securing rates increases for women that were ninety per cent of those attained for men, a breakthrough toward gender equality in pay scales. In contrast, a bakery workers' strike in 1965, while winning a forty-hour working week, was marred by conflict among the unions involved owing to the disparate interests of their members.
As chairman of the WUI central education committee, Cardiff devised courses in public speaking and parliamentary procedure, and introduced training programmes for shop stewards. He secured formal recognition within the WUI rulebook for the position of shop steward (the functions of which had evolved haphazardly by custom and practice, and varied markedly from one employment to another), thereby defining, regularising, and strengthening the shop steward's role. Maintaining that the aim was to establish 'order and accountable organisation' (Devine, 19), he rebuffed charges that he was creating the potential for a militant and uncontrollable shop-stewards' movement, akin to that in Britain.
On the death of the WUI general secretary, James Larkin Jr (qv), Cardiff was elected deputy general secretary (1969–77), winning a tight contest over Frank Cluskey (qv) of the union's butchers' section, and served under the new general secretary, Denis Larkin (qv). Cardiff strongly supported Ireland's entry into the European Economic Community (EEC). Asserting that the Irish people were geographically, culturally, and ideologically Europeans, he warned against the dangers of economic isolation in the open market of free trade, and stressed the potential for sustainable economic growth and full employment, and the benefits of the EEC social charter ('one of the most advanced general progressive documents' (quoted in Devine, 31)). Largely owing to his efforts, the WUI was one of the few Irish trade unions to campaign for EEC membership in the 1972 referendum.
Becoming general secretary of the WUI (1977–9) – the first person from outside the Larkin family to hold the office – Cardiff initiated a series of mergers with other unions, thereby augmenting his union's membership numbers, and expanding beyond its historically Dublin-centric geographical base. The policy was rooted in his broader advocacy of thorough rationalisation of the Irish trade-union movement; he deplored the plethora of separate rival unions competing within the same occupational sectors as both divisive and wasteful of the movement's resources. Cardiff led the WUI team that negotiated the 1979 merger with the Federation of Rural Workers (FRW) to form the Federated Workers' Union of Ireland (FWUI), and served as general secretary of the new federated union (1979–83). (With 50,000 members, the FWUI was the second largest union in the Republic of Ireland.) He oversaw merger with the Irish Agricultural Advisors Organisation (1983), and started the process leading to merger with the Irish Women Workers' Union, effected in 1984, after his retirement. He helped negotiate an inter-union relations agreement (1981) among the FWUI, ITGWU, and Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union, covering such matters as membership transfers and closed-shop agreements, thus forging the framework for the eventual merger in 1990 of the FWUI and ITGWU to form the Services Industrial Professional Technical Union (SIPTU).
Cardiff continued implementation of his union's policy of expansion into white-collar occupations, including the organisation of clerical workers in the burgeoning public service. By 1982 the FWUI had 20,000 members in public-sector employment, in such diverse areas as Aer Lingus, RTÉ, Bord na Mona, nursing, and local authorities. The union also secured a foothold in the technological sector, largely by organising in the new plants opened under the Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
Cardiff was a strenuous advocate of broad economic and social planning as the vehicle for self-sustaining economic growth, lasting improvements in living standards, and social justice. As early as the 1967 WUI annual conference he highlighted the limitations of wage bargaining alone, and outlined a model of trade-union participation in planning 'the effective use of the country's resources, both human and material, and the distribution of the nation's wealth in as equitable a manner as possible' (Devine, 29). His perspective was sharpened by the six-week maintenance workers' strike of January–March 1969, in which eighteen maintenance craft unions – largely representing such skilled workers as engineers and electricians – struck without any prior consultation with other unions affected by their action; of the 31,000 persons eventually out of work, less than 3,000 were maintenance workers, the vast majority being members of other unions (including 2,500 members of Cardiff's WUI branch) who respected the pickets placed with ruthless calculation by the maintenance unions.
The conduct of the strike profoundly affected Cardiff's thinking regarding industrial action, trade-union structures, inter-union relations, and models of collective bargaining. At the 1970 conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), he unsuccessfully proposed a voluntary incomes and prices policy, based on an agreed and acceptable scale of income relativities, as an alternative to the prevailing practice of locally negotiated, industry-by-industry wage rounds, which he castigated as a selfish pursuit of sectional objectives, replicating the laissez-faire ethos of capitalism, rather than realising the trade-union ideal of workers' solidarity. He criticised the narrow, pay-orientated scope of the centralised national wage agreements negotiated between ICTU and the Federated Union of Employers at two-year intervals in the 1970s, and took a leading role in effecting their replacement by the broader, tripartite national understandings of 1979 and 1980, involving trade unions, employers, and government. These he regarded as a ground-breaking departure, whereby the trade-union movement participated in policy-making in diverse areas of public interest as advocate for various marginalised social groups, and a stage toward his preferred model of comprehensive economic and social planning. (Cardiff regarded this model as a quasi-syndicalist mobilisation of workers' industrial power in pursuit of fundamental social change, in a milieu in which parliamentary politics were unlikely to deliver such change owing to the minority appeal of the Labour party – the political wing of the labour movement – in Irish elections.)
Though a seasoned, tenacious negotiator, Cardiff was slow to resort to strike action, believing that it was a last resort. Rank-and-file militancy propelled him into the two most contentious disputes of his FWUI leadership. He regarded as ill advised the eight-week strike in 1978 on behalf of 1,200 clerical and administrative staff in Aer Lingus, and thought that the union was fortunate in securing a favourable settlement (suffering a heart attack five weeks into the strike, he was absent from the final negotiations). During the intractable Clondalkin Paper Mills dispute (1982–3), in which workers resisted closure by occupying the worksite, he prevailed on a reluctant FWUI executive to place pickets on subsidiary businesses; the increased pressure induced government intervention, leading to a negotiated package and a temporary reopening of the plant under a foreign buyer.
Cardiff retired as FWUI general secretary in 1983 on medical grounds. A member of ICTU's executive council (1972–4, 1977–84), he served on numerous boards and committees at national and European level, including the Employer–Labour Conference and the National Economic and Social Council. During his tenure as ICTU president (1982–3), he attempted without success to revive the model of national understandings, which had broken down in 1981, and regarded the indifference of Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald (qv) to the concept as a grave dereliction of duty amid the severe economic circumstances of the period. In his presidential address to ICTU's 1983 conference he expressed fears that the Irish government was taking lessons from the prevailing economic orthodoxy of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.
Cardiff's leadership style was marked by thoughtful analysis of a situation, followed by relentless pursuit of the determined policy. Self-described as 'a bit of a briar' (Devine, 50), he was renowned among colleagues and subordinates for his forthright expression, gruff idiom, and intolerance of mediocrity and self-congratulation; as Donal Nevin (qv) noted: 'All of us bear the scars of his verbal asperity, his impatience with waffle and his disdain for moral cowardice' (ibid.). Lacking a flamboyant personality, and neither comfortable nor skilled when dealing with media (broadcast media especially), he was described as a 'spin doctor's nightmare' (Devine, 22). His designation as 'the quiet man of Irish trade unionism' (Ir. Times, 7 July 1982) was a mischaracterisation; while he rarely made public pronouncements outside trade-union forums, he was unabashedly outspoken therein.
Cardiff married (24 April 1965) Breda Kearns (who survived him), a member of the WUI administrative staff, and executive secretary to both Big Jim Larkin (qv) and Young Jim Larkin; they had no children, and resided for many years at 'Glenholme', Convent Avenue, Bray, Co. Wicklow. His recreations included walking, reading, painting, and breeding canaries and fox terriers. Suffering continuing health problems in his retirement, he died 3 June 2005 at St Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin, after a long illness.