VIVA FIDEL! Boss of Unite Jetted off on a Junket to Cuba for May Day Celebrations - Paid for by the Union Which Opposes Civil Service Pay Deal

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 16, 2010 | Go to article overview

VIVA FIDEL! Boss of Unite Jetted off on a Junket to Cuba for May Day Celebrations - Paid for by the Union Which Opposes Civil Service Pay Deal


Byline: John Lee and Michael O'Farrell

THE Irish head of the trade union Unite, which has urged its members to oppose the civil service pay deal, spent the May bank holiday weekend on a junket to Cuba paid for by the union.

The official, Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly, confirmed to the Irish Mail on Sunday that he travelled at the expense of his union and insisted that the week-long trip was not a junket, but work.

Mr Kelly: 'We were meeting Government officials and that sort of thing. I was actually working on behalf of the union out there.' He was accompanied by seven other Unite officials, most of whom work for the ESB, and who insist they paid for the trip out of their own pockets.

The celebrations organised in Cuba by dictator Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, since 1959 are a must-do for hardliners, a sort of Paddy's Day of the Left. But their absence was noted in Dublin's May Day parade.

Addressing the crowd in O'Connell Street, Arthur Scargill, who led the 1984 British miners strike, was appalled at the state of the Irish trade union movement. He asked: 'Where are all the trade union leaders that ought to be here today?' The answer, at least for some, was under the sun-kissed Caribbean skies. 'We were in Havana,' said Brendan Ogle, who gained a fiercely militant reputation when leader of the Irish Locomotive Drivers' Association . 'Arthur is a friend of mine; he should have known where I was,' he added.

Mr Ogle, now the Ireland regional organiser for Unite, paid for his own trip as did six other union officials, all of whom work for the ESB.

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