Press Release - 1/6/05 - by Carmel Gates, President of NIPSA, one of Northern Ireland's largest unions.

NIPSA President calls for new political alternative

NIPSA President Carmel Gates, in her Presidential address to the union's annual conference in Newcastle, laid down a challenge to the trade union movement to "face up to its responsibility to provide working class people with a political alternative based on trade union and socialist policies."

She said: ""NIPSA members, like trade unionists generally, must be prepared for another year of struggle against the right-wing policies of the New Labour government. We face pay restraint, cuts in education and other services, privatisation and, of course, water charges.

"When our members are given a lead they have always responded. We have just had a tremendous strike on May 13 against education cuts and another day of action is planned for later this month.

"The Government can be beaten on these issues. Earlier this year 1.5 million public service workers voted to strike against the attack on pensions and the Government had to retreat. They will now try to come back at us on this issue and we have to be prepared for similar action to force them to back down again.

"The Blair Government has no mandate for these policies. It was elected with no more than 22% of the votes of the total electorate. Those people who voted for them to prevent a Tory victory did so holding their noses.

"For working class people there was no real choice in the election. Likewise in the Northern Ireland election we had an election which showed the clear need for an alternative to all the existing parties.

"People have been pushed into sectarian voting camps. Yet as workers we have far more in common than divides us. It is time that we built an alternative that could unite working people around common interests.

"The low turn out in elections shows that there is a basis for an alternative. Most people have no confidence in the politicians who they see as too busy fighting each other to fight for us.

"The trade union movement now has a responsibility to build an alternative, a new party that can unite working people around trade union and socialist policies."

End

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