Saturday’s Raise the Roof rally must signal turning point on housing

Unite says many construction workers cannot afford homes they build

November 24th: Unite, which represents workers throughout the economy, has called for a large turnout at the Raise the Roof housing rally due to take place this coming Saturday (26 November). 

Commenting, the union’s Regional Coordinating Officer Tom Fitzgerald said:

“A generation has been locked out of secure and genuinely affordable housing.  House prices rose by 77% between 2012 and 2020, while incomes increased by just 23% over the same period.  At the same time, average rents now consume over half the average wage.

“The housing emergency did not arise overnight.  Home building by local authorities collapsed as a direct result of public policy, with new housing builds by local authorities across the country amounting to just under 2,300 units in 2019 – a derisory figure given the level of housing need.  Instead of building homes, funding has been channelled into tax breaks for large investors, lucrative leasing deals for developers and large subsidies for private landlords.  It’s clear that we need a new deal for housing”, Mr Fitzgerald said.

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Dept of Health running out of time to save Registered Childminders sector

As Unite seeks emergency meeting, survey confirms nearly 70% of childminders considering leaving sector

November 24th: Unite the union has written to the head of the Family Policy Unit in the Department of Health to request that they lift restrictions on Registered Childminders which are threatening to collapse the sector. 

At present, Registered Childminders are subject to a lower cap on the number of children that they can accommodate than in England, Wales or Scotland. With childminders in Northern Ireland allowed to accommodate just half the number of children permitted in England, this cap in squeezing their incomes at a time of spiralling prices.  The result is that childminders must either accept a further squeeze on their incomes, raise charges to parents or leave the sector.

Unless the Department acts, hundreds of Registered Childminders will be pushed out of the industry, with devastating consequences for childminders and their families, for other workers reliant on childcare, and for the wider economy.

A recent Unite survey of Registered Childminders found that 59 per cent of Registered Childminders were considering taking on a second job to make ends meet; nearly half are increasing their fees to cope with the cost of living crisis, 32 per cent are asking parents to provide food, and 18 per cent are reducing the days they work to help reduce overhead costs.  69 per cent are considering leaving the sector.

Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald warns that the sector could collapse unless the Department of Health raises the caps on childminders:

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Tenants groups in Belfast and Craigavon challenge NIHE on impact of unresolved strike

Workers enter their fifteen week of strike action for improved pay as LRA-mediated talks are due to commence this week

Striking housing workers at NIHE have linked up with tenants associations and residents groups across the three housing regions impacted by the ongoing industrial dispute which is now entering its fifteenth week.

The pay dispute is in relation to the 2021-2022 year and housing workers are seeking two pay grade increases and a cost of living payment. At present workers have had a 1.75 percent increase for that year imposed after it was recommended by the National Joint Council.

Unite Regional Officer Michael Keenan confirmed that his union’s members had secured strong support from tenants groups who were bearing the brunt of the unresolved strike.

“Representatives from the Falls Residents Association confirm that they are dealing with tenants unable to move into properties allocated to them some months ago and report growing numbers of void properties lying idle with no date for renovation and allocation. They are telling me that tenants are unable to heat their homes because essential repairs remain undone.

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New vehicle BIK rules: Government accused of greenwashing tax grab

Unite calls for changes due in January 2023 to be scrapped

Trade union Unite has slammed new Benefit in Kind (BIK) rules due to take effect on 1 January 2023 which could result in employees who use company cars for work paying hundreds of Euro extra in tax, and has called on the Government to immediately reverse the changes.  

The calculation basis will change to a combination of mileage and CO2 emissions. At the same time, the 0% BIK on electric vehicles with an Original Market Value of less than €50,000 is to be phased out over four years, and the €50,000 OMV threshold which currently sees 30% BIK on cars above the threshold is to be progressively reduced up to 2026 – increasing the tax liability of individuals affected accordingly, while dis-incentivising employers from purchasing electric vehicles. 

Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd said:

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NI Housing Executive bosses must show respect to workers and tenants and clear their diaries to engage in negotiations to end housing worker strike

Responding to the media appearance of NIHE Chief Executive Grainia Long on regional radio this morning where she failed to touch upon the profound crisis facing social housing tenants, Unite the union has challenged NIHE management on their inaction.

Press reports confirm that in excess of 3,600 tenants have been left needing repairs and improvements to clear drains, improve draughty windows or upgrade heating. In addition to this Unite the union has been informed that 270 disabled tenants haven’t got the essential adaptions they need and almost 300 desperately needed social housing units lie empty as the change of occupancy work has not been done.

The crisis arises from the sudden withdrawal of eleven private sector operators from outsourced maintenance contracts at a time when direct labour organisation workers are into their thirteenth week of strike action for a cost of living increase.

Unite Regional Officer Michael Keenan commented:

“For our part, Unite has sought to negotiate a resolution to the pay dispute through inviting the NIHE management to Labour Relations Agency mediated negotiations.

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