After 36 years working for the CIF, Joe O’Brien has retired as the Federation’s Director Southern Region.
Joe started his career with the CIF as Secretary Cork/Kerry Region in 1979 after a Christmas Eve phone call from then CIF Director General Tom Reynolds offering him the job.
Looking back over a lifetime spent in the construction sector Joe says much has changed since he started. “Back then direct employment was the norm,” he says. “Now we’ve moved to a situation where there are more sub contractors in the industry.”
He remembers the 1980s for its long recession but also intense employment disputes – “lots of IR issues” – that required tough negotiations with the unions.
“It’s a resilient industry,” he adds, “but I would like to see a situation where there is less economic peaks and troughs. The boom and bust cycle does nobody any favours.”
During his time as the CIF’s senior person in Cork Joe has served with just three Director Generals: Tom Reynolds, Liam Kelleher and Tom Parlon. “All three were very different but all worked very well for the Federation,” he says.
After four decades in the same industry Joe says it feels like he knows everyone in construction: “In fact, I’m so long in the game I’m working with the sons of the fathers I was dealing with in the 1980s,” he explains.
“The CIF’s profile has also changed over the years,” he says. “We’re now seen as part of the solution and our opinion is sought out on a variety of matters.”
Joe oversaw the move from the original CIF Cork office in Montenotte to the purpose built office in Eastgate the CIF now occupies.
“The CIF’s only asset is its staff and in that regard we’ve been very lucky,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to mention anyone by name for fear of leaving someone out but I’ve worked with some great people over the years.”
Asked if it was a stressful job he says it can be, but “only if you let it”.
“I always enjoyed solving problems for our members. They’re not just members but also friends, something I hope remains the case now that I‘ve retired.”
As for future plans, he is remaining tight-lipped, only saying he will do nothing until September. “Between now and then it’s holidays and golf.”