Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
NIPSA - latest developments in disputes and union elections
Special Conference reviews pay dispute
by Paul Dale NIPSA Civil Service Executive (personal capacity)
A SPECIAL one day conference of NIPSA members in the civil service takes place at the Kings Hall on 11 March and will discuss the lessons of last year's pay dispute. A paper drawn up by the union's Civil Service Executive makes a raft of recommendations.
Some are quite obvious - communications with branches to be improved, the internet site to be updated regularly etc.
Others are fundamental to future campaigns. Undoubtedly the key lesson is the use of selective action. The majority of the Executive are loosely gathered around a "Reclaim your Union" grouping. Rank and file members refer to this as "Restrain your Union". Prominent Executive supporters of this view thought selective action would grind government ministers back to the negotiating table.
"Time for Change" supporters argued instead for more all member strike action, especially after the two successful one day strikes. At one point, a vote on the Executive which showed the "Time for Change" minority voting for such action was recorded. This was then removed from the minutes so that the fact that the majority was voting against escalating the action would not be known by the members.
Only when one million pounds of the union's money was spent did the majority on the Executive agree to consult members and argue for an all member indefinite strike.
By this stage, a lot of the momentum of the dispute had been lost, yet even then the result was closely run; 51% were against indefinite action.
The dispute was lost but the union was not dealt a fatal blow and the members are angry, not bowed. Low pay will lead to further disputes and probably sooner rather than later.
The conference must underline the message that in future we have to move to all out action as part of a co-ordinated campaign when the mood and the momentum is there, not after 40 weeks.
Time for change in NIPSA
RESULTS OF the elections for the General Council (Executive) of NIPSA will be out in mid February.
The opposition "Time For Change" group ran a slate of 19 candidates, enough to gain a clear majority on the 25 seat body. "Time for Change" argued for a single united left slate. Unfortunately a group influenced by the Socialist Workers Party decided to run an alternative "uncivil servant" slate.
Its credentials as a left group were dented when its members in the Child Support Agency called for a vote for "uncivil servant" candidates and then to continue voting for anyone except members of "Time For Change".
In effect, this meant calling for a vote for the right wing. And since "uncivil servant" was running only nine people, not enough for a majority, it actually meant calling for the right wing to be elected back into control of the union.
"Time For Change" leafleted the Child Support Agency in reply and got a very good response from the members who were quite bemused that their committee supported a vote for those who let them down in the pay dispute.