THERE are fears that up to 75 of the 300 Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) jobs in the Craigavon area could disappear as a result of the major shake-up announced by Minister Nelson McCausland.
The DSD Minister (DUP) dropped the bombshell on Wednesday morning that the Executive is being scrapped. And the union NIPSA accused him of “at best insensitivity for failing to inform the staff in advance”.
Sources within NIPSA claimed that up to 25 per cent of the overall 3,000 jobs could evaporate, with responsibility for the 90,000 homes being transferred to a new regional housing body and various local housing associations - including the South Ulster Association in Portadown’s Carleton Street. That would translate into 75 jobs in Craigavon - spread among Marlborough House, and the district offices in Portadown and Lurgan.
Said NIPSA assistant secretary Alison Millar, “We are calling for an urgent meeting with Nelson McCausland to find out what is happening to the staff. I heard second-hand from a politician on Tuesday night that an announcement was imminent, and this is a gross discourtesy.
“There was no mention of how this would affect the staff, or about protection of their terms, conditions and pensions. People are worried about their future and there isn’t a word about them. The announcement was much too vague.”
Mr McCausland said that “doing nothing isn’t an option”. He added, “My proposals set out the strategic direction for the way social housing will be delivered which will be fit for the 21st century. These plans build on the success of the past and create structure that will ensure social housing will be delivered.”
However, Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly (SDLP) said that the root and branch changes were unnecessary within the NIHE and that such a major plan should be brought before the Executive “rather than being concocted by one Minister, which lays bare the lack of democracy within the Assembly system”.
She added, “Fair enough, the NIHE needs modernising, but certainly not scrapped. It has wiped out the sectarian ways in which housing was managed in the past and taken it into the modern era. It also has to be said that Nelson McCausland’s Department gave £8m back to the Finance Minister which should have been used for social housing. This is far too profound an issue to be pressed from a single Department.
“He didn’t bring the issue before the Assembly. Instead he chose to spring it on the country - and on the staff - on Wednesday morning. This isn’t the way to run a vital service like housing.”