Ireland North: Socialist challenge for union leadership

VOTING TAKES place this month for the general secretary of NIPSA, Northern Ireland’s biggest trade union with a membership across all areas of the civil and public service. It can play a crucial role in shaping the direction of the trade union movement in Northern Ireland.

For many years, the union has had a right-wing leadership, with effective control resting in the hands of unelected full-time officials.

Now this is starting to change. Recent disputes have started to increase membership involvement and a significant shift to the Left has taken place.

Earlier this year, the Left "Time for change" grouping won a majority on the General Council, the ruling body of the union.

’Time for Change’ is challenging for the general secretary position. The candidate is Socialist Party member, Carmel Gates, a longstanding NIPSA activist.

Carmel has been nominated by the General Council and is backed by branches across both the public officers and the civil service side of the union.

Carmel spoke to Socialist Voice (The Socialist’s sister paper in Ireland): "The NIPSA leadership has been out of touch with the membership for far too long.

"Our senior officials are on senior civil service management salaries. If I am elected, I will continue to take my present salary and donate the rest to labour and trade union causes.

"I will use my position as general secretary to help develop strong and active branches where every member can participate. I will fight to stop our services from being sold off and to defend jobs, wages and terms and conditions.

"A change is taking place in other unions, where members have had enough of leaderships that do cosy deals with the employers and the government and are electing people who are prepared to lead a struggle and who put members’ interests first.

"The same change is needed in NIPSA and I intend to ensure that it comes about."

The ballot starts on 18 October and the result will be out in the second week of November.

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October 2002