'Tremendous result'

Unite claims victory in battle to safeguard supported accommodation for vulnerable and homeless women

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At a press conference held today (March 30) at the gates of Regina Coeli House, the centre of an eleven week occupation by workers, Unite has announced it has received assurances from the Department for Communities and the NI Housing Executive that an enhanced and expanded service for homeless women, including a women’s only hostel in the city, will be opened in May.

Unite says that, having secured the facility’s future, the union is now working to ensure that the dismissed workers are employed by the new service.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham welcomed the success scored by her union’s members and pledged her union’s continued commitment to the campaign.

“This is a tremendous result,” she said. “I’m so proud of the stand of these women workers took against this closure. In their care and compassion for the women who rely on this service and the principled stand that they took, they are an inspiration to all. Their determination and eleven week occupation forced a wider policy commitment by the Department for Communities.

“While we celebrate this success, our fight is not over,” Graham added. “This commitment must now translate into the re-employment of these workers at the new service.”

Speaking for the union at the event, Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock, congratulated the workers on their stand.

“I’m very proud that, faced with the prospect of this vital facility being closed down, the these women workers, members of my union, took the brave decision to stand their ground,” he said. “For eleven weeks they stood firm. Despite threats, eviction notices and even being dismissed two days before their statutory redundancy, they kept the doors open. In so doing they forced the politicians to act. The result is this commitment to an enhanced and expanded service for homeless women including a women’s only hostel. The successful fight of these women workers will stand in the history of this city.”

Unite member and Regina Coeli House worker, Emma McCann, also spoke.

She said, “Our position has always been that the Legion of Mary should do the right thing and hand this building over, that the management committee should step back and let this happen – shamefully they didn’t do this.

“That management committee acted in a brutal way, threatening workers with legal action and sacking workers two days before redundancy payments were due to kick in – we are glad they are no longer in charge of this vital lifesaving service,” McCann added.

“We would have liked the political establishment and the Housing Executive to be brave enough to run this service directly but we recognise that we have won a significant victory by ensuring that the service will not only continue, albeit at a different venue, but will be expanded.”

Unite pledged to continue the fight to ensure the employment of the workers at the new facility which should open next month.

By Donal O’Cofaigh

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