The following resolution was carried at the NIPSA Annual Delegate Conference held in early June 2021.

Conference recognises the critical importance of robust and active debate in our union and the wider trade union movement. Indeed conference recognises that such debates can at times be fraught but debate is the democratic life blood of the movement and any attempt to limit or impede it should be resisted. Every member is entitled to ask questions of the union.

However, Conference also recognises that democratic debate in a hostile atmosphere, designed to intimidate or terrorise opponents, means that only some voices can be heard. Conference is particularly concerned that such an atmosphere could be deliberately created to undemocratically force a change.

Conference is very concerned by the hostile atmosphere at the 2019 conference. That conference was notable for the use of misogynistic language, abuse directed towards staff and the apparent effects of alcohol during conference sessions. This led to some delegates becoming upset and distressed.

Conference is clear that such behaviour is outside the democratic traditions of our movement and that the methods of bullying, abuse and intimidation should have no place in our union in the future.

In particular Conference condemns:

  • The use of physical force and/or the threat of physical force within the trade union movement;
  • The use misogynist and sexist language;
  • he use of sectarian language;
  • The use of racist language.

Conference acknowledges with admiration all those who stand up to this behaviour. Conference therefore commits to ensuring that activists throughout NIPSA are aware that they will receive all possible support in the fight to defend the democratic norms of the trade union movement.

Conference calls on the incoming General Council to condemn this behaviour and produce robust policies and methods to enforce the compliance of the ‘code of conduct’ for members at all levels whilst attending conferences and meetings within NIPSA.

Conference calls on the incoming General Council to support those who encounter intimidation, bullying or aggressive and threatening behaviour whilst they are attending meetings and conferences to fully represent the membership in their areas.

Conference instructs NIPSA to issue a bulletin to all branches, that such behaviour is inappropriate in any setting even more so in a trade union where we should hold ourselves to higher standards of conduct and behaviour.

This resolution was fully endorsed by Conference and fully support by the General Council. All branches and representatives are reminded that healthy debate and differences of opinion are part of how we conduct our business across NIPSA. However, it is absolutely essential that the line is not crossed into personal attacks, bullying, intimidation or any other unacceptable forms of behaviour. All representatives across NIPSA are reminded that they must adhere to the highest forms of respect and dignity when dealing with other representatives or members particularly when there are differences of opinion.

Unfortunately, there are times in the past when that line has been crossed and as a result it was necessary for NIPSA to introduce a complaints procedure for members when they feel it is or has been necessary to have their complaint dealt with. It is hoped that the need for the use of the complaints procedure will be very infrequent.

For meetings of NIPSA whether that be General Council, Executive Committees, Panel or Branch meetings the Code of Conduct for the conduct of business at those meetings should be distributed to those entitled to attend and they should be strongly encouraged to abide by those rules.

While it is hoped that is not necessary the NIPSA Rule Book also provides for, in certain circumstances, the potential disciplining of NIPSA members. It is therefore clear that NIPSA takes the issue of inappropriate behaviours very seriously and if and when they occur they will be dealt with through the appropriate procedures.

Alison Millar
General Secretary