As you are aware from media reports we are in the middle of a housing crisis with horrendous stories reported on an almost daily basis. You would be forgiven for thinking that we had reverted to conditions experienced by workers at the beginning of the 20th century i.e. living in tenements, exorbitant rents and unscrupulous landlords.
Most workers now struggle to buy a house of their own as house prices have spiraled beyond the reach of those on low and average incomes. Soaring rents have put huge financial strain on workers, students and their families often paying for poor quality accommodation with little or no security of tenure.
It is a key issue for women as our rate of female homelessness is now double that of other EU states and more than 60% of homeless families are headed by lone parents, the majority of whom are women. Meanwhile housing waiting lists grow even longer and homeless numbers are at record levels. Thousands are now crowded into unsuitable accommodation with families forced to raise children in hotel rooms and other emergency dwellings. Government policy to date has failed to solve the crisis.
At our biennial conference in Killarney we recognised this with the theme of the conference being “Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”. At this conference we heard stories from our own activists and the difficulties they are experiencing in trying to find a home and even when they find one trying to stay in it.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also been running a campaign in an attempt to force the government to make some of the necessary changes to deal with the housing emergency. To that end, the ICTU has designed a Charter entitled; ‘Everyone Has A Right to A Place Called Home’. The purpose of this Charter is to ask politicians to deal with what Congress sees are the main contributory factors to the homeless emergency.
Trade Unions, political parties, student unions, housing agencies and community and campaign groups have joined forces to demand action on the housing crisis. On October 3rd there is a chance to change course, when an opposition motion on the crisis is to be debated in the Dáil.
This motion is supported by Sinn Féin, People before Profit, the Labour Party, Solidarity, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and Independence4Change with others expected to add their support. The motion also has the support of a wide range of trade unions.
The motion demands radical new action on the crisis, including the construction of quality, affordable public housing, preventing people from being evicted into homelessness and enshrining the right to housing into the constitution.
A special rally has been called called for outside Leinster House at lunchtime on Wednesday 3rd October by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, in conjunction with the National Homeless and Housing coalition, the Union of Students in Ireland, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and key housing and homeless agencies. I recognise that the time and venue will be unsuitable for many members but I believe that those of you who are not in a position to attend will have the opportunity to contribute as the ICTU campaign develops.
This is an issue that affects us all in some form or other. We all know people impacted by the crisis and many of our members find themselves in situations where they cannot afford to rent accommodation never mind afford to buy. This is an opportunity for us all to support this campaign and bring the message home to the major political parties that the time for inaction is over. We need to get as many people as possible to attend the rally and I would urge you to take the time to attend. All Branches are asked to support this cause and help us Raise the Roof for change.
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