Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
NIPSA conference 2005
Fighting leadership needed for NIPSA
by Carmel Gates
THE CONFERENCE of Northern Ireland's largest trade union, NIPSA, will take place this year against a backdrop of struggle. The civil service pay strikes, water privatisation strikes, an enormous vote in favour of strike action against pension cuts and the turmoil and strikes in education clearly indicate that things are changing rapidly in the public sector.
NIPSA activists must use this year's conference to ensure that the union keeps up with those changes. Fundamental issues such as union organisation, solidarity and leadership will be the real discussion points for delegates.
The members must decide between a policy advocated by the ruling body, the General Council, of lukewarm opposition to water charges and the alternative proposed by the left of outright opposition based on non-payment.
Control of the union arises again as members may, despite the best efforts of the standing orders committee, have an opportunity to debate branch funds which are an increasingly necessary development. The work of many branches has been seriously hampered by having to go to go cap in hand to headquarters to gain access to basic resources.
Political representation and the need for a political fund will also be hotly debated. But never has it been more important for NIPSA to have the freedom to campaign against our local sectarian politicians who have voted through cuts in education and who are supporting the introduction of water charges.
The conference offers an opportunity for the left to reorganise itself to be ready to face the tasks of building the structure of the union and developing its fighting strength in preparation for the battles we will inevitably face in the near future. To meet those challenges, we need officials who are elected and accountable to the members.
NIPSA is potentially the most powerful trades union in the North. To reach its full potential it must see off the old conservative bureaucrats and the new young careerists who milk the union for a job. NIPSA members deserve a union that fights for them.
See also Billy Lynn for President!