NIPSA trade union activists in the civil service are currently engaged in a struggle to defend what is known as “facility time” to continue to effectively represent their members and to engage in the internal activities necessary to the democracy of any trade union. Senior management have undertaken a review of industrial relations across the civil service and have clearly stated their intention to roll back long-standing arrangements and dictate a new, restrictive regime. In addition, two of NIPSA’s most experienced seconded representatives have been recalled in defiance of a central agreement.
Management continue to drive this agenda in a political vacuum, without the authority or oversight of an Assembly Executive. They ignore the substantial evidence from academically conducted research which clearly identifies the benefits of an employer of an effective trade union presence. Such a presence means early resolution of problems with fewer cases to defend in courts and tribunals, fewer accidents, fewer absences and a more productive and contented workforce. This translates to genuine resource and monetary savings.
It would appear that NIPSA activists are to suffer because they dared to campaign against attacks on public services, privatisation and welfare ‘reform’, just as the PCS civil service union was punished for campaigning against the same issues in Britain. If this is not challenged, it is likely to spread to other parts of the public service. Management seek to undermine workers’ ability to defend each other and to have a collective campaigning voice on matters of social importance. Their demand for compliance must be met with defiance. Activists should follow the example of their counterparts in PCS, unite across the board and become involved in the mounting campaign to end this assault.