Call for increase in rent supplement to address homelessness

Speakers address annual May Day rally by Dublin Council of Trade Unions

The annual May Day Parade organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. The parade was led by Patrick Tighe, Jerry Kennerk and Yvonne Clarke. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The annual May Day Parade organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. The parade was led by Patrick Tighe, Jerry Kennerk and Yvonne Clarke. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

An immediate increase of 28 per cent in rent supplement is required in order to prevent more families from becoming homeless, campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.

He was addressing the annual May Day parade, organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, in the city centre yesterday.

Several hundred trade unionists and activists marched under their banners from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square to Liberty Hall, where they were addressed by a number of speakers urging changes to employment legislation to protect workers’ rights.

Fr McVerry told the crowd that when the figures became available, they would show that while the political parties had been trying to form a government, some 200 families and about 300 individuals would have become homeless. “There is no sense of urgency, no sense of priority about dealing with this hugely critical problem at the moment.”

Over the next two weeks another 150 emergency beds would be taken out of the system, he said. “And they don’t know where they are going to go. They may very well end up, many of them, back sleeping on the streets.”

Emergency legislation was also required to prevent banks and financial institutions evicting people from their homes until they had found alternative suitable accommodation.

Fr McVerry said compulsory purchase orders were required for empty buildings to allow them to be used for family accommodation. He urged the incoming government to discuss the barriers to any such policy.

Marching with former employees of Clerys department store, which closed suddenly last year after its sale to a consortium, Siptu organiser Teresa Hannick said their campaign for changes to employment legislation was continuing.

“They are here to make sure no other worker has to go through what they went through,” she said. Chanting ‘justice for the Clerys workers’, the group stopped briefly outside the shuttered store on O’Connell Street.

Gerry Markey, speaking on behalf of the workers at the rally outside Liberty Hall, welcomed reports that the government had opened an investigation into the closure and sale last year which led to the immediate sacking of 460 staff.

Pat Bolger, of the DCTU, spoke about injustices in the healthcare system. He said the Impact union had warned the Government that its proposals for universal healthcare were unworkable. “When will anybody in power listen to the real experts – the staff, the workers, their unions and the patients?”

Former Ictu president John Douglas, speaking on behalf of Tesco workers, said their recent ballot for strike action over planned changes to their pay and conditions, was the answer to any employer who thought it could “roll over” workers without any regard to trade unions.

Activists and trade unionists marched under banners for Mandate, Siptu, the CPSU, Labour Youth, Unite, Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit, Irish Housing Network, Labour Youth, DCTU, Limerick Soviet, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.