Young and precarious workers across Britain and Ireland are standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough’. Small but successful campaigns, such as the McStrike and the #BetterThanZero initiative, have rebuilt confidence and have proved that, by joining a union and actively organising, we can win. Northern Ireland has not been left behind in this international rise in trade union consciousness. Workers here too, are organising. Following a successful launch of the Unite Hospitality NI campaign, young people from a wide range of workplaces are getting together and planning how they are going to fight for a better life and a better future.
We have to maintain and increase the pressure on Westminster and our local politicians to guarantee real abortion access in Northern Ireland. This cannot wait for the sectarian parties to resolve their disagreements and catch up with ordinary people in the 21st century. We demand free, safe, legal abortion, here and now!
After three days of positive debate and discussion and with firm foundations laid for the year ahead, Conference ended with a rendition of Pete Seeger’s rousing union song ‘Solidarity Forever’. Delegates standing with fists held high understood this could not have been more significant.
The first Trans Pride in Belfast was held on Saturday 2nd June, reflecting the need for transgender, non-binary and intersex (“trans+”) rights. While the spectrum of sexuality is for the most part something that is becoming more accepted and understood, gender is a whole other story. Awareness and advancement of the struggles of trans+ people is something that is growing, but ultimately this progress can only go so far, as the system in which it is taking place is not truly compatible with what is really needed.
Pro-choice activists and trade unionists must organise for the biggest possible mobilisation of people on the streets ahead of any vote on decriminalisation. We must seek solidarity from the labour movement in Britain. Politicians should be left in no doubt that, if our rights continue to be denied, they will face a campaign of civil disobedience that will make the law unworkable. The Socialist Party supports full decriminalisation of abortion but we must go further to ensure abortions are free, safe, legal and accessible here in Northern Ireland on the NHS.
The protests in the wake of the trial – which forced the sacking of Jackson and Olding by Ulster Rugby and have prompted a review into the conduct of such trials in the future – are the beginnings of a movement against misogyny, against victim blaming and against rape culture. We can link this to the wider movement against sexism worldwide, in particular across South America with the ‘Ni Una Menos’ movement and in Spain, with tens of thousands protesting across the country after the recent clearing of the ‘manada’ (wolf pack) of the gang rape of a young woman. It is imperative we continue to build this movement to win the fight in ending sexism, misogyny and oppression worldwide.
The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is trumpeted as a resounding success to this day. Its twentieth anniversary was marked with great fanfare by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, but the majority of the population of North ignored the celebrations and struggled on with their daily lives. The reason for this disinterest is clear: ordinary working people are thankful that the carnage which marked the three decades before 1998 has come to an end, but they are only too aware that genuine peace remains elusive, as low-level sectarian conflict and paramilitarism continue to blight their lives. They have also given up on the long-promised but never delivered “peace dividend” – the myth that an influx of investment and good jobs would cement the peace.
The failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin to agree a basis to re-establish an Executive has hampered and delayed the annual round of pay negotiations for civil servants. When it became clear that there was little prospect of the two main parties returning to partnership in government, and having consulted with members, public sector union NIPSA reluctantly entered formal pay negotiations with the NI civil service (NICS) management, submitting a 5% pay claim in July 2017. This reflected the anger of members at 7 years of pay awards below inflation.