VOTING TAKES place this month for the General Secretary of NIPSA. NIPSA is the biggest trade union in Northern Ireland with a membership across all areas of the civil and public service. It can play a crucial role in shaping the future direction of the trade union movement.
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 such as the term time struggle 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.
Now "Time for Change" has decided to challenge for the General Secretary position. The candidate is Carmel Gates who, as well as being a longstanding NIPSA activist, is also a longstanding member of the Socialist Party.
As well as receiving the backing of a wide number of branches across both the public officers and the civil service side of the union, Carmel has been nominated by the General Council.
Carmel spoke to Socialist Voice about the decision to stand:
"The NIPSA leadership, like that of many other unions, has been out of touch with the membership for far too long. "Time for change" is starting to change that and this election is a crucial part of that process.
"Our senior officials are on senior civil service management salaries. It is no wonder that they have little understanding of the problems of our low paid members. If I am elected, I will continue to take my present salary and donate the rest to labour and trade union causes.
"I want to open up the resources of the union to the membership at branch level. I will use my position as General Secretary to help develop strong and active branches where every member can participate and be fully informed.
"The jobs and terms and conditions of our members are under assault, especially through privatisation. I will fight to stop our services from being sold off and to defend jobs, wages and terms and conditions.
"I have been an activist in NIPSA for over 20 years and have held positions at all levels including the Civil Service Executive and General Council. I started as a low paid clerical officer and as such know the struggle of many members who hold two jobs just to make ends meet.
As a member of the NIPSA Equality Committee, formerly the Women's Committee, I am committed to the eradication of inequality. I fought alongside our term-time workers in education who won a 25% pay increase. Those members, 90% of whom are female, showed that determination and a willingness to fight is the most effective way to win equality.
"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 through my election, I intend to ensure that it comes about."
Ballots are issued to members on 18 October. Every member will receive a manifesto. Leaflets will also be produced. It is important that the campaign is taken to the workplaces.
Anyone who wants to help should e-mail Carmel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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