Northern Ireland

Nipsa: Tribunal criticises union in 'communist' dispute

Nipsa HQ
Image caption The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) has more than 45,000 members, mainly Civil Service staff and public sector employees

An employment tribunal has criticised the trade union Nipsa in a case concerning 'entryism' by the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI).

Entryism is the infiltration of an organisation by another group's members who intend to change its policies.

The tribunal found that two members associated with the CPI had been unjustifiably expelled from the union.

It also criticised Nipsa's "regular" record of sorting out internal grievances though tribunals.

'Rich source'

Its judgement said "the tribunal does not exist to provide a public forum for the periodic ventilation of obscure and internecine disputes within Nipsa".

It added that "no other union appears to require this regular attention".

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) has more than 45,000 members, mainly Civil Service staff and public sector employees.

The judgement said the case was part of a dispute between two factions in the union which "has been a rich source of litigation over recent years".

The factions are: 'unity', which is associated with the Marxist Leninist CPI, and the 'broad left' which is associated with various Trotskyite parties.

'Communist coups'

The case involved two people who were employed as officials for other trade unions and then joined Nipsa.

They were elected as officers and delegates in their Nipsa branch in 2015.

Their right to membership of the union was queried by members associated with the broad left who also alleged the meeting at which they were elected had been "packed" by the CPI.

The tribunal noted that "as Communist coups go, it was hardly the storming of the Winter Palace".

The union leadership, which is dominated by the broad left, decided the two people were not eligible for membership as Nipsa does not represent employees of other trade unions.


The two took a case to the tribunal alleging discrimination on the grounds of political opinion.

However the tribunal said they had not shown that the two factions actually have any substantive political differences.

It added that name-calling or trolling on social media is not sufficient to show political difference nor is "alleged adherence to Trotsky's 1938 Transitional Program".

However the tribunal found they had nonetheless been unjustifiably expelled from the union.

'Enjoying the process'

They claimants said they have suffered stress, insomnia and reputation damage as a result.

However, the tribunal said it has seen no evidence of this, adding "the claimants nor any representative of the respondent trade union evinced any degree of stress or upset during the hearing".

"To the contrary everybody involved, and their supporters, showed every sign of enjoying the process."