ICTU President launches scathing attack on NIPSA

ICTU President and Regional Secretary of UNISON, Patricia McKeown, has written to every UNISON member in the north criticising the actions of the NIPSA union leadership during the Classroom Assistants dispute. Accusing NIPSA of being in the grip of “a small political faction,” she accused the leadership of acting in a “dishonourable” manner and of making “hysterical and defammatory” remarks about UNISON. The development follows accusations by elements within NIPSA that UNISON and the GMB had ‘rigged’ their ballot which had resulted in both unions endorsing the offer presented by the Education Boards, following the Minister for Education’s intervention.

  • Garibaldy

    This whole situation goes from bad to worse. Let’s hope the bitterness is worked out quickly, though I doubt it.

  • runciter

    Let’s hope the bitterness is worked out quickly

    Not if the SF shit-stirrers have their way.

  • Mark McGregor

    That seems like a real conflict of interests for McKeown.

    The letter to the ICTU asking for an investigation

    The Press release on same

    McKeown can’t wear both her UNISON and ICTU hats during this and should remove herself from any ICTU aspect as she has already declared her hand for UNISON and against the NIPSA request. Something that would raise worries about her ability to be balanced in the ICTU.

    Though as I expected NIPSA have once again played a terrible game.

    (And if McKeown is talking about political links lets remember she was at the last SF Ard Fheis and has endorsed a decision that is very much to the liking of the SF Minister.)

  • Garibaldy

    Runciter,

    I did think carefully about whether to comment or not, but this is a bad situation for the union movement, and any possibly of sweeping it under the carpet until it was sorted out has been removed by the actions of the unions involved. This letter may have been a bad idea, but I don’t think picketing Carlin House was a good idea either, never mind a lot of the other stuff that has going on.

  • Mark McGregor

    Gari,

    Carlin House?

  • Garibaldy

    In fairness she was also at The Workers’ Party Northern Regional Conference. In her position I’m sure she attends a lot of political and other events. I suspect El Mat would be able to tell us she was at the SDLP conference for example, and may well have been at the FF one too. I do think there were other people in Unison this letter could have come from.

  • Garibaldy

    The NIC ICTU’s headquarters, named after Terry Carlin.

  • Mark McGregor

    Gari,

    Her position in the ICTU would have made me think she should have tried to calm the situation not add petrol to the fire. NIPSA made a valid request but in a poor way. The ICTU President then accusing a Union of being under political control against the members interests is a major allegation.

    The main outcome is the workers lose. A bad series of events that’ll be lapped up by some.

    Lets hope some cool heads come into play soon before further damage is done.

  • Mark McGregor

    Gari,

    Right. Another very bad move.

  • runciter

    any possibly of sweeping it under the carpet until it was sorted out has been removed by the actions of the unions

    Who’s talking about ‘sweeping it under the carpet’?

    I was thinking more along the lines of ‘not posting shit-stirring articles on Slugger’.

  • Garibaldy

    Fair enough runciter. As I said I can understand your position. But we need to think about whether the unionis themselves have handled the situation properly.

  • runciter

    But we need to think about whether the unionis themselves have handled the situation properly.

    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  • Chris Donnelly

    runciter

    Ahh, shooting the messenger, old boy….

    Mark
    Patricia McKeown would attend political gatherings of various colours in her position, so your off mark in suggesting she has somehow nailed her colours to Sinn Fein by virtue of the fact she attended an Ard Fheis.

    Her capacity as ICTU President should not dissuade her from refuting an attack from elements within another union. Indeed, McKeown intimates in the letter that she has taken the matter further through the ‘proper processes’ within the trade union movement.

    No, the significance in this is very clearly in the fact that a leading figure within the trade union family has publicly hinted at what was not so privately accepted by most informed observers: namely, that the good ol’ Trots in NIPSA were hell bent on manufacturing an industrial dispute, and that they rejected a good offer not on the merits of the offer but as a result of a political agenda.

  • Garibaldy

    Runciter,

    Where should we be holding these debates as members of trade unions concerned for the future? We can talk within our own unions, but surely this shows the need for wider discussion. This thread may not have been posted with the best of intentions (and the time lag certainly suggests that to be the case) but this is an important issue. Should we just ignore it, or should we take the opportunity for a sensible debate?

  • Chris Donnelly

    This thread may not have been posted with the best of intentions (and the time lag certainly suggests that to be the case)

    Garibaldy
    The letters only reached most households today, though I do note from the website link attached that the statement dates from earlier in the week. Now, do you really believe most union members check the website of their union regularly?

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    There was no attack – I’ve added the statements above. There was a request for the ICTU to clarify what counts as a majority in this situation, I don’t like how NIPSA have gone about raising the issue so publicly but it is an important point and it is very arguable that a majority have not accepted the offer as some are claiming.

    And McKeown’s open letter of the two has much more intemperate language and unsubstantiated claims than the NIPSA one.

    Like Gari and other supporters of the Union movement I’m mostly concerned about how this damages organised Labour and plays into the hands of those not particularly concerned with its well-being.

    Hopefully cool heads settle the public shouting and address the issues at heart. Though in this case the workers’ best interests seem to be lost.

    (the SF comment was to highlight how easy it is to make an allegation of political agenda, like your Trot comment and McKeown and now you have put no meat on the bones of that claim about a Union that had mass membership support for its actions)

  • Garibaldy

    Chris,

    Fair enough. Apologies. Though my union communicates by email rather than post, so such a statement would have been in the hands of members the same day.

  • Chris Donnelly

    and now you have put no meat on the bones of that claim about a Union that had mass membership support for its actions.

    Mark
    How do you know the levels of support NIPSA had? Did they not refuse to ballot on the matter?

    McKeown is entitled to employ intemperate language, given that it was her union being publicly accused by elements within NIPSA of vote-rigging.

    As for the political agenda comments, people will reach their own conclusions about the agenda of those involved, as I have done.

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    I searched for that ‘vote rigging’ claim when you first made it, couldn’t find it, still can’t, can you point me to it.

    I do see a request to investigate the balloting mechanism/results to ascertain if a majority of Assistants accepted the offer or not. That’s a reasonable request, it’s very possible the smaller Unions with a low turnout could have returned an acceptance vote based on well short of 50% of Assistants. That isn’t a claim of impropriety though just a request for clarification on what was actually delivered by the other ballots, if say it was only 10% of Assistants forcing through an acceptance due to the bargaining mechanism that’s a big issue, if they delivered a real majority that’d be clarified by any ICTU investigation.

    And as for intemperate language, McKeown as the head of the ICTU should know better and act in a more comradely manner even when in disagreement IMO.

    The workers still lose out. Result for some.

  • Mick Hall

    Spare us the body snatching Trots who are so deviously clever they can manipulate ordinary workers so easily. A bit old hat if not insulting to rank and file Trade Unionists. If that is the best some brothers and sisters can do it is hardly surprising the recent problems have occurred.

    If there are differences they should be argued through in a democratic manner, not reduced to a rerun of early Comintern conflagrations.

  • NIPSA made a valid request but in a poor way

  • runciter

    Ahh, shooting the messenger, old boy….

    No. Just highlighting the messenger’s agenda.

  • wild turkey

    ‘If that is the best some brothers and sisters can do it is hardly surprising the recent problems have occurred.

    If there are differences they should be argued through in a democratic manner’

    Yeah put the comrades, sorry brothers and sisters, in Big Brother House. Will we witness argument in a democratic manner or Fractious vanity? I know where I’ll put my wager.

    on another note, can anyone enlighten (within the bounds of UK libel and slander laws) just what/who is ‘the same small political faction which appears to be in control of NIPSA’s decision making- machinery’ refered to by McKeown?

    thanks

  • URQUHART

    Good work Chris.

    But did you ever think it would come to this – encouraging dissent between Irish Trade Unions?

  • interested

    So NIPSA is “in the grip of a small political faction,”

    And there was me thinking we were all in the grip of a small political faction – ALL unions who seem to think we should dance to their tune when they dress demands for bigger pay packets up as somehow being for the benefit of pupils/patients/the community at large (delete as appropriate).

  • Mick Hall

    “Yeah put the comrades, sorry brothers and sisters, in Big Brother House. ”

    Even I would watch that.

  • saveus

    Chris, this is a very poor attempt to redeem SF and Catrionas’ diabolical handling of this issue, imho your trying a big “told you so”. but missing the central point that the classroom assistants had a valid case and balloted to strike( please do not go down the route of talking about a second ballot because we all know who brought that nice piece of pro-labour law into being).
    Lions led by donkeys without a doubt, but I dont care if every single member of the NIPSA executive has sworn in blood to destroy SF,The workers had a valid reason to strike and it is the duty (raison d’etre) of a Union to get the best deal possible for their members not the employers.Catriona and her advisors and indeed those republicans who were manipulating in the background and briefing against the classroom assistants, trying to break their just strike, have destroyed the reputation of SF as a republican LABOUR party.The impact of this will be felt in years to come and I dont mean just at the ballot box.

  • interested

    Am I the only one who finds the self-implosion of all the unions quite funny?

    Maggie managed to break them in the rest of the UK 25 years ago. We’re finally catching up…… normal British politics resuming!

  • Clonakilty

    interested

    I have often thought that the Thatcher Revolution never reached the shores of Northern Ireland because of our unique circumstances and the laziness that those circumstances bred into the political class – simply demand more money from the pot at Westminster. That easy prop has been kicked away and tough decisions have to be made and if necessary, the Unions need to be faced down. Seems that Robinson has got the message and some of our leaders up on the hill have yet to catch up.

    On a personal level I think John Corey is rapidly shaping up to be our answer to Arthur Scargill – terrified to ballot his members because he knows they aren’t with him.

  • Clonakilty

    PS. Never thought I’d find myself agreeing with Patricia McKeown – hopefully normal service will be resumed when the final budget is unveiled by Lawson, err I mean Robinson!

  • Garibaldy

    Perhaps you two geniuses can give examples of trade unions in NI behaving in a way that damaged NI’s society and economy. Because I can cite in their favour the trade union movement’s long history of opposing sectarian murder, and playing a vital role in organising mass demonstrations in favour of peace at crucial points in the early 1990s and then again in more recently when it looked like a return to random sectarian killings might be on the cards after several sectarian murders in north Belfast/Newtownabbey.

    Why don’t you both grow up?

    Oh, and Interested perhaps you might indicate when NI ever had normal British politics? I don’t recall Westminster being created with a deliberate permanent majority, or gerrymandering at local government level being in-built into the system, or an armed paramilitary force that beat people asking for British rights for British citizens off the streets, before going on to fire machine guns into people’s houses while assisting mobs to burn people out of their homes.

    NI’s politics have never been normal in a British or a western European context. Maybe in a Balkan one though.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Because I can cite in their favour the trade union movement’s long history of opposing sectarian murder, and playing a vital role in organising mass demonstrations in favour of peace at crucial points in the early 1990s and then again in more recently when it looked like a return to random sectarian killings might be on the cards after several sectarian murders in north Belfast/Newtownabbey. ‘

    Well let us be thankful for the TU movement. Articulating the difficult minority view that murder, sectarian or political, was wrong. Otherwise civic society would have gladly acceded to the murder and sectarianism which the the TU movement, and its acolytes, solely defended us and our children against.

    It is heartening to know that the TU movement, unlike any other community, political groupings, deals in altuism rather than mere political handjobbery.

    This must be refreshing. Yes?

    Que sera sera

  • Chris Donnelly

    The impact of this will be felt in years to come and I dont mean just at the ballot box.

    Saveus

    Oh dear, is that some type of threat? Are you the IRLA????

    M McGregor
    Clearly you missed the protest organised by NIPSA outside Carlin House, when NIPSA placards explicitly accused UNISON of vote-rigging.

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    I did miss that. Bang out of order. The actual issue raised in the letter to UNISON is a lot more substantive and reasonable. Real pity to see the division caused between the Unions, IMO, and it benefits only those opposed to the Assistants demands being met.

    btw, feel free to call me Mark instead of my full name, I almost feel like I know you ;0)

  • tweedledee

    What this dispute highlights is the absurdity of not having closed shops, with clear jurisdictions between unions, and having multiple unions jointly negotiating with multiple employers. It’s so-so at the best of times, when there’s solidarity, but becomes farcical when there isn’t, as demonstrated in cases like this.

    Leaving the unions aside and turning to Sinn Fein’s position in this dispute. Don’t really know what to say, words almost fail me. Hope you’re proud of yourselves.

  • saveus

    “Oh dear, is that some type of threat? Are you the IRLA???? ”

    Scurrilous to say the least

    No Chris its an opinion from a fellow republican, who once thought well of you, I would imagine if you could take your eyes away from your navel for a few seconds, that you would be aware of the parties attempts to carve out a niche for itself in the left of the Irish political spectrum in recent years, indeed I assisted them with this at many levels for many years and have met you on several occasions.As I stated earlier crushing strikes and demonising strikers is not the way to enhance your left wing credentials IMHO, if you cant see how this will impact on the party(outside the ballot box) then i respectfully suggest you get your glasses checked camradatha

  • saveus

    Mick, as Chris has yet to see fit to withdraw his scurrilous remark I am asking that you take action, I have always attempted to be balanced and measured in my posts and I have never advocated violence, for Chris to post such an ad hominen remark is disgraceful,for voicing dissent to SFs official line am I to be labelled a dissident who threatens other republicans(felon setting republicans called it in my day Chris)
    please remove

  • Mark McGregor

    saveus,

    I don’t think Chris would mean it the way you’ve taken it and if you’ve met him surely you agree? Sometimes this medium doesn’t work on a conversational level as you don’t get the tone and body language of face to face.

    Do I know you too?

  • saveus

    I would imagine we have met on several occasions Mark,I know Chris well and I am totally suprised that he would engage in this type of felon setting. However there is a hysteria gripping the movement at the minute where anyone dissenting is labelled, shunned and indeed then intimidated. This type of crap is the start of it, I know where it can lead

  • Chris Donnelly

    The impact of this will be felt in years to come and I dont mean just at the ballot box.

    Saveus
    Absolutely intrigued by your panic attack following my flippant reply to your post, which included the above piece.

    For the record, my anonymous comrade, can you enlighten me as to what you meant by the above remarks???

    And, perhaps, you could let me know who you are- my email address is freely available by simply clicking on my name.

  • Mark McGregor

    Thankfully my experience has been different and I still have civil, working and friendly relationships with many former comrades, though not all.

  • saveus

    Flippant indeed, you were implying that because I had the audacity to question the current line I was IRLA, thugs who have been threatening republicans like the Meehans. You say flippant i say scurrilous felon setting,I reiterate my request for you to withdraw that comment a chara. What i meant by my remark, and perhaps I should have been more explicit, is that that SFs handling of this episode will detrimentally effect SFs ability to carve out the niche on the left which they so blatently need to move forward in the 26 counties not to mention the impact this will have on the parties outreach with trade unions.I dont understand how it could have been construed as a threat by any stretch of the imagination

  • Chris Donnelly

    saveus

    I’m glad you have decided to be more explicit- stating that the impact would be felt beyond the ballot box has very definite connotations, and I’m relieved to hear you elaborating that you meant this in strictly a Sinn Fein/ Trade Union context.

    If it pleases you so, consider my comment ‘withdrawn,’ though am still awaiting your correspondence to clarify your identity….

  • saveus

    thank you Chris,rest assured i had no panic attack, i just get really pissed off with republicans who attack the messenger and dont address the message, as Mark said this is perhaps not the medium for a conversation. As Some of my friends have not had the same agreeable experiences as Mark if it “pleases you” I think I will remain anonymous, GRMA