Belfast Telegraph

Unions refuse to reveal how many workers voted for strike action that'll bring Northern Ireland to its knees

By Rebecca Black

Two of the biggest trade unions involved in bringing major strike disruption to Northern Ireland have yet to reveal how many voted in strike ballots - while a third didn't respond.

Nipsa and Unison - which collectively represent more than 80,000 workers - both told the Belfast Telegraph that they will not disclose how many members took part in the ballot, while Unite did not reply to our inquiries.

Some 53% of Nipsa workers voted for the strikes organised tomorrow which are set to bring Northern Ireland to a standstill, but without a turn-out figure for the 40,000-member union, it is impossible to know how many workers this represents.

DUP MLA Trevor Clarke voiced fury at the secrecy, and said unions owed the general population some answers. He said: "They are not being forthcoming over numbers. I have spoken to friends who are in unions who don't want to go out on strike, they realise they are going to lose a day's pay.

"But there is also another group of people here, ordinary working-class people who are going to have to take time off because they are dependent on public transport, or they have kids who are dependent on public transport so they need to find a way to get them to school.

"There is going to be an awful lot of people suffer out of this, and there will be no winners."

Strikes across a number of sectors across Northern Ireland tomorrow are set to result in chaos.

All public transport will be suspended, leaving potentially 75,000 children unable to get to school, and walkouts will take place at the Education and Library Boards, Roads Service, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service and the Housing Executive.

The PSNI has announced that it will not enforce bus lanes tomorrow. Some teachers and nurses are also set to strike, although the main unions in both sectors have not voted to walk out.

Nurses represented by Unison have voted to strike, and up to 7,000 teachers represented by the Irish National Teachers Organisation will strike.

Education support workers including cleaners, catering staff, admin staff, estate staff, classroom assistants and general assistants will also be among those striking in schools.

The Department of Education has advised parents to check with their child's school ahead of the strike.

Striking workers are set to take part in lunch-time rallies and marches across Northern Ireland.

The biggest is expected to start at Writer's Square in Belfast at noon. Rallies will also take place in Derry, Strabane, Enniskillen, Omagh, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Dungannon and Newry.

Paddy Mackel, education official for the biggest union Nipsa, said the cuts proposed by Stormont must be stopped.

"Four years of Tory cuts which have slashed £1.5bn from the Assembly's budget clearly demonstrates the contempt the UK Government has for public services in general and public servants in particular," he claimed.

"In education alone £100m worth of cuts, including the loss of at least 500 teaching and 1,000 support staff jobs, will directly impact on the education of children and young people. These children will not get a second chance.

"They deserve better from their local politicians. The cuts should be reversed immediately."

The trade union chiefs... and the mystery of their earnings

Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (Nipsa)

Brian Campfield, General Secretary

Salary: Will not disclose

Mr Campfield has been a NIPSA official since 1982, he took over as chief of the union from John Corey in 2009.

Unison

Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary

Salary: Will not disclose

Ms McKeown has been a trade unionist for three decades and for many years she was assistant to the equally formidable Inez McCormack. She started her working life as an assistant to a solicitor.

Unite

Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary

Salary: Did not respond

Mr Kelly, a former chief shop steward at the internationally-known glassware manufacturer Waterford Crystal, has been Unite chief since 2008.

INTO

Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary

Salary: Did not respond

Principal of St Mary's PS, Belfast. Previously taught at a number of schools including Little Flower Secondary, Belfast, and at Wembley in London.

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