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From: The Socialist issue 662, 16 March 2011: Defend jobs and services: Protest 26 March

Search site for keywords: Northern Ireland - Ireland - Nipsa - Socialist Party - Public sector

Northern Ireland: Broad left gains in union elections

Northern Ireland's largest trade union, NIPSA, has completed elections for its executive body, the general council. In a significant turnaround from last year's results, the left activist group, NIPSA broad left, which includes Socialist Party members, scored a spectacular success.

Padraig Mulholland, NIPSA Public Officers' Executive and Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) member, Belfast

The broad left increased its seats on the 25-member executive from four to 12, with three Socialist Party members topping the poll.

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) represents over 45,000 members from across the civil and public services and the voluntary sector.

Although the results leave the right wing in control, with a one seat majority, the outcome of the election is a clear signal that members want the union to change direction and to begin seriously to fight against cuts.

NIPSA has a significant membership base in health, local government and the civil service in the North. It can have a considerable influence in mobilising public sector workers for action against cuts.

Decisive control of the union executive by the right wing for the last year is one of the factors that allowed them to smother struggles by public sector workers.

Now the left on the executive can expose the union right wing and build stronger support for resistance to the cuts.

A key issue for NIPSA is taking political action to complement industrial action. The left, including the Socialist Party, has been fighting for NIPSA to do this, including supporting candidates to oppose the cuts imposed by the Northern Ireland Assembly Executive.

Last year's NIPSA conference voted by a majority to move towards political action. But the motion was lost due to the undemocratic requirement for a two-thirds majority.

In the recent elections, the broad left manifesto made the call to: "Put genuine anti-sectarian working class representatives in the Assembly to fight cuts".

The subsequent vote for broad left candidates reinforces the support for the argument for political representation.

This election is an important step in a positive direction for the left in NIPSA. With a determined left programme the union can begin to become a vehicle for resistance to cuts.

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Article dated 16 March 2011

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