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Trade union group faces criticism over support for Fresh Start

Senior ICTU official Peter Bunting is facing calls to resign over the umbrella group's support for the Fresh Start deal
Connla Young

A PROMINENT member of the north's largest trade union has called on leading members of the movement to reject the Fresh Start political deal or consider resigning.

Senior Nipsa member Padraig Mulholland made the dramatic call after Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) assistant general secretary Peter Bunting faced unprecedented calls to resign from members of his own movement.

The ICTU is coming under increasing pressure after it backed last year's Fresh Start pact, which includes widespread spending cuts.

Those opposed to Mr Bunting and the ICTU's position say the bitter row could split the trade union movement in the north.

The umbrella group took out a series of newspaper advertisements last year where it labelled the Stormont House Agreement a "bad deal" that served a "Tory agenda".

However, months later the organisation gave its support to the Fresh Start deal which some regard as ‘Stormont House Two'.

Mr Bunting has previously said that, while ICTU has backed the deal, it remains opposed to welfare reform and other cuts.

As well as being a Nipsa general council member, Mr Mulholland is a leading figure in the powerful Broad Left grouping within the union.

Mr Mulholland described the ICTU position as "disgraceful".

“In Nipsa we are opposed to the Fresh Start agreement and more specifically we are opposed to the position adopted by the ICTU.

“We are shocked by it and we believe it to be a disgraceful position for the union movement to be in.

“ICTU'S leadership has put the interests of political representatives in Stormont above the members of the workplace.

“We want to see the trade union movement getting off its knees, standing up for members and taking on the Northern Ireland assembly.”

Earlier this week Jackie Pollock, chairman of the Northern Ireland Committee (NIC) of the ICTU, said that statements made by Mr Bunting have “the authority of the Northern Ireland Committee”.

Mr Mulholland said there are questions to be asked of the entire committee.

“If they are accepting collective responsibility for their decision, it's the wrong decision and they should reverse that decision or consider their own position.”

Earlier this week Strabane Trade Union Council member Michael McLaughlin called for Mr Bunting to resign.

In a statement posted on Facebook last night Derry Trade Union Council called on the ICTU “reject this austerity deal”.

A spokesman for the ICTU declined to comment.

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