Right wing in NIPSA shaken as 39% vote for Carmel Gates

Socialist Voice Nov. 2002

39% of NIPSA members who voted in the General Secretary election agree that it's "time for a change". Out of a total vote of 12,302, Carmel Gates polled a magnificent 4,755 votes against the current Deputy General Secretary. This was a tremendous result for "Time for Change" and represents a significant degree of discontent with the conservative leadership of the union.

By Padraig Mulholland

"Time for Change" is a broad grouping of NIPSA activists including Socialist Party members that stands on a fighting programme. Amongst its aims are; to increase union democracy and give the members a greater say in running the union, to fight privatisation and protect members' jobs, to fight for decent pay increases that will eliminate inequality and to oppose all forms of sectarianism, both in the union and in the wider community. There has been a tremendous response to this programme from right across the union.

This was the first General Secretary election to be held in NIPSA and has had a positive effect on the union. Out of a membership of 40,000, 31% of members' votes were cast. This is higher than any other union election in Northern Ireland. Many members voted for the first time in response to the high profile campaign conducted by both candidates. The "Time for Change" manifesto spelt out in clear political terms what needs to be done to fight for better conditions for NIPSA members. Because of this, the "supporters" of John Corey were forced to declare similar objectives, however, many members saw through their hollow pledges. A strong, united and democratic union cannot be built by people who are appointed into their positions and who are afraid to stand before the members in elections.

"Time for Change" was standing against the full might and bureaucracy of the union which managed to form an unholy alliance with some of its former enemies. It remains to be seen whether this alliance will survive the competing egos.

For almost three weeks, NIPSA members received little service from NIPSA headquarters as many full-time union staff canvassed for the John Corey. His "supporters" took every possible measure to secure victory. After a visit by a senior NIPSA official to an Education and Library Board, a senior manager instructed a member of staff to issue leaflets for John Corey during working hours! A number of civil service branches that supposedly nominated the Deputy General Secretary did not notify members of the branch meetings, but then instructed members how to vote. The "supporters" gave a "red scare" story to the Belfast Telegraph in an attempt to discredit Carmel Gates, and then proceeded to produce thousands of copies and instructed NIPSA officials to distribute them to members. Many members did not appreciate these methods and contacted "Time for Change" activists to protest.

Despite these, and other manoeuvres too numerous to mention, "Time for Change" achieved a tremendous result that has sent shock waves through the old leadership of NIPSA. "Time for Change" can look forward to building on that success in the forthcoming general council elections and strengthening the activist base that will allow it to fight for the real interests of NIPSA members. Carmel sends sincere thanks to all those who campaigned on her behalf.

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