The Socialist Party condemns the threat to staff employed by the Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI) in the strongest possible terms. The threat, which appears to come from a dissident republican paramilitary group, is totally unacceptable.
All workers have the right to work free from threat and intimidation. The protest outside the PBNI building in North Street, Belfast sent a clear message to those who issued the threat.
In the past, workers walked out on numerous occasions to counter similar threats from paramilitary groups. In the 1980s and 1990s, a series of trade union-organised protests and strikes forced the paramilitaries to withdraw threats. Ultimately, the actions of working class people sent a strong message that they had had enough of the campaigns of violence. If the PBNI staff decide that they too must take strike action until they are sure it is safe to work, the Socialist Party will offer full support.
This threat is a stark illustration of the problems facing working class people in 2017. It is nearly a quarter of a century since the first paramilitary ceasefires, and almost twenty years since the Good Friday Agreement. Whilst the level of violence has been markedly reduced, there is not real peace. And there has certainly been no peace dividend.
Workers need their unions both to fight for improved wages and conditions, and to support them when they find it necessary to take a stand against threats and intimidation. Strong and fighting unions are not enough alone. They also need a political voice – a broad party which organises in both communities, fights for a better future and works to sweep away sectarianism. Until we have such a mass party, our lives will continue to be blighted by armed sectarian groups and the sectarian political parties which thrive on division.