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Peter Hadden

“Allow Free Discussion” – demands NIPSA Broad Left

(June 1986)

From Militant, 142N, June 1986.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

The 1986 NIPSA Conference agenda has been blatantly and bureaucratically rigged by the union’s right wing who have a majority on the Alliance Council (Executive Committee). 104 motions are to be discussed while 46, mainly motions submitted by left-wing branches, have been ruled out of order.

The main grounds for this bureaucratic manoeuvre are that these motions are said to contravene strict political guide-lines drawn up by the Alliance Council during the year. These prevent the union from discussing what they call party political motions or from attacking particular governments or social systems.

In practice these guidelines allow the union leadership to rule out motions they do not like. The reason is clear. For years the NIPSA Conferences have been moving to the left. As well as the crucial motions on pay, conditions and union democracy, motions on subjects such as South Africa, Sri Lanka, Chile, nuclear power, and motions demanding clear socialist solutions to the problems of workers in Northern Ireland have all been passed. Unable to answer the arguments which have swung past conferences on these questions, the right wing are now resorting to the bureaucratic method of stifling debate.

For example last year a motion porting the stand of Liverpool Council was passed. This year a motion which simply opposes the surcharging of councillors in Liverpool and Lambeth has been taken off the agenda.

The motion is not directly party political but it has been ruled out nonetheless. There are many other examples. And of course these guidelines have been and are a device to prevent discussion of the current situation the North. No less than seven motions calling for a trade union campaign to counter the sectarianism which has resulted from the Anglo-Irish Agreement have been bureaucratically struck off.

Perhaps the surprise twist of bureaucratic logic is the ruling of a motion calling for a ballot to establish a political fund on the grounds that this would require a constitutional amendment. How come a similar motion has gone through many British union conferences, most recently that of the IPCS without a constitutional amendment?

In fact the implantation of the motion would mean the changing of the constitution not this year, but next – assuming the ballot resulted in a yes vote.

The NIPSA Broad left are campaigning within the union against this stifling of debate. They have circulated branches and are planning a special protest meeting at the conference.

Whatever the outcome of the Conference the campaign by the Left will have to be stepped up. If the right wing get their way NIPSA would be turned into a tame union prevented from taking up any of the broad issues which affect its members. Every branch should join the Broad Left in campaign to maintain NIPSA’s democratic traditions and develop a fighting union capable of protecting its member’s interests playing its part alongside the rest of the Northern Ireland trade union movement in the fight to eliminate poverty and sectarianism here.

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