The President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has paid tribute to the courage of all those within the civil service who have “stood up and said enough is enough” during Friday’s mass strike.
NIPSA members held pickets at facilities right across Derry and the north west in line with others across Northern Ireland amid widespread frustration over issues around pay and conditions.
In Derry, representatives from various government workforces held strikes outside Foyle Jobs and Benefits Office on Asylum Road, the Loughs Agency, Waterside House, Orchard House, Carlisle House, and at facilities in Lisahally, Lisnagelvin, as well as outside the local Public Prosecution Service and Probation Board offices.
Representatives from each workforce gathered together afterwards in the City Hotel where they were addressed by a number of trade union representatives.
To applause from those gathered, ICTU President Gerry Murphy said the workers had the full support of the entire trade union body, adding: “The days on 1% pay increases are over. It’s totally unacceptable for the employer to ignore you, to ignore your union, popping 1.25% into your pay packet without your consent, without your agreement, when you have a right to seek to bargain for more. That is a right denied. You have the right to a just and fair settlement.”
Niall McCarroll, chair of the Derry Trades Union Council, said that as the strike action unfolds this was an opportunity to “support and build up resistance against a system which automatically and deliberately focuses a lot of time and resources on controlling working class communities, denying us any real role within policy direction or in society so that everyone has a chance.”
He said: “All those workers taking strike action today are doing so not only for better working conditions, but also they know society needs to be better. And this strike is a strike to defend everyone’s rights, workers and citizens alike.
“Of course attacking working class communities is a covert and deliberate government strategy,” he claimed, adding: “Governments know the real, ultimate power to influence lies within working class communities and organised trade unions, so today’s strike is about beginning to fight back, showing worker power and building solidarity across the lines. “
Mr McCarroll assured the civil servants that the Trades Council in Derry stood with them and would fight with them. “Workers are fed up of negotiations and consultative groups and all other current strategies in place which are supposed to offer us hope. What we need is a fighting trade union movement, we need on the ground fighting union reps, we need to organise, agitate. If we want to change our lives and our community’s position in society let’s together build up our fighting spirit, that working class spirit that has achieved so much, the spirit the government fear, that the Tories know can bring them down.”