Northern Ireland

Call for civil disobedience not endorsed by all unions ‘at the moment’, says ICTU

A general view of crowds of union members gathered at Belfast City Hall
Tens of thousands of workers will hold a mass walk out on Thursday over pay

A trade union leader has said that a call for civil disobedience if the public sector pay disputes are not resolved is not endorsed by all unions “at the moment”.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the umbrella body for Northern Ireland’s trade union movement, has moved to distance itself from the call made by NIPSA.

Patrick Mulholland, NIPSA general secretary, last week said civil disobedience was a possible next step if the pay dispute continues after the major strike planned for Thursday takes place.

He urged those taking industrial action to block roads and occupy buildings to vent their frustrations at the continued lack of progress towards a new pay deal.

Patrick Mulholland
Patrick Mulholland, NIPSA deputy general secretary (user-hp1)

Tens of thousands of workers are set to join the day of mass strike action on Thursday in response to the failure to award a pay deal in line with colleagues in Britain.

Teachers, healthcare workers, civil servants and bus and train drivers are among those due to take part in the walk out, described as the largest mass strike in a generation.

But Gerry Murphy, ICTU assistant general secretary, said the call from NIPSA for civil disobedience was not the general position of the 26 unions he represents.

“ICTU is the umbrella body for 26 unions across Northern Ireland, of which NIPSA is just one, a large one, but just one,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“What ICTU does is represent the collective views of those 26 unions.”

Gerry Murphy speaking in Belfast at a previous walk-out. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

He added: “NIPSA are entitled to their view. Their call for civil disobedience is a matter for them.

“What will happen with ICTU going forward after Thursday’s strikes? We will sit down and evaluate and collectively reach a decision on how to proceed.

“Those are the views of NIPSA, not of the ICTU at this point in time. I’m not endorsing them at the moment.

“I don’t believe Patrick Mulholland was trying to be unhelpful.

“I think he was articulating the genuine views of his membership and the concern and frustration that is rising.”

Rallies and marches will take place across Northern Ireland on Thursday, with workers set to gather at Belfast City Hall from noon as well as in Derry, Omagh, Enniskillen and Cookstown.