Workers' dispute to suspend women's refuge services


A dispute by counsellors at the Aoibhneas women's refuge in north Dublin is expected to seriously disrupt services there this morning. Admissions to the centre will be suspended, along with counselling services and the crisis help-line, which is staffed by the counsellors.

There are 10 families, including 30 children, currently at the hostel. They will not have to leave, as care staff and administrators are continuing to work. The counsellors have decided not to mount pickets so as to preserve the centre's anonymity.

IMPACT's industrial relations officer, Ms Louise O'Donnell, said yesterday that the counsellors had taken action reluctantly, having waited almost a year for a pay award to be implemented. An independent arbitrator has recommended a pay scale of £15,130 to £19,320 a year. At present most of counsellors are earning between £11,000 and £16,000.

Ms O'Donnell said that some of the counsellors earn as little as £5 an hour, despite being highly qualified. "They provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable women and children in Dublin."

The EHB said it was willing to enter discussions with IMPACT on an overall review of services provided by women's refuges in Dublin and to complete the exercise by June. However, the board is unwilling to fund an increase at Aoibhneas that could lead to follow-on claims elsewhere.

Aoibhneas has a much high number of counsellors than the board's own refuge in Rathmines. One reason for the discrepancy is that Aiobhneas counsellors staff the help-line service and provide counselling 24 hours a day.

Services at the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, are expected to return to normal today following a vote by SIPTU care workers to accept settlement terms to their three-day strike last week. Both sides have agreed to binding arbitration.