The Confederation of Employee Organisations (COEO) was founded in June 1973 as a politically independent federation of unions, staff and professional organisations. The steering committee of the Confederation of Independent Staff Organisations, the precursor of the COEO, held its first meeting in October 1972. The secretary of the steering committee, the Rev. Paul Nicolson, was appointed General Secretary of the COEO, a post which he resigned in October 1978.
The COEO was established with the aim of providing back up and representative services for staff organisations registered under the Industrial Relations Act of 1971. By 1978, it represented nearly fifty organisations, comprising over seventy thousand members. As many of the COEO's members were involved in the insurance industry, the COEO set up its own Insurance Division. Financial problems, the difficulties caused by Nicolson's resignation and problems in recruiting his successor hindered the COEO. In addition, the emergence of the Managerial, Professional and Staff Liaison Group had the effect of usurping the COEO in terms of national policy-making. In May 1979, a special conference decided that the COEO should cease its activities. This decision, subsequently ratified by a ballot of the COEO's member organisations, resulted in the dissolution of the COEO in September 1979. The Council of the COEO met for the last time in January 1980.