Responding to the media appearance of NIHE Chief Executive Grainia Long on regional radio this morning where she failed to touch upon the profound crisis facing social housing tenants, Unite the union has challenged NIHE management on their inaction.

Press reports confirm that in excess of 3,600 tenants have been left needing repairs and improvements to clear drains, improve draughty windows or upgrade heating. In addition to this Unite the union has been informed that 270 disabled tenants haven’t got the essential adaptions they need and almost 300 desperately needed social housing units lie empty as the change of occupancy work has not been done.

The crisis arises from the sudden withdrawal of eleven private sector operators from outsourced maintenance contracts at a time when direct labour organisation workers are into their thirteenth week of strike action for a cost of living increase.

Unite Regional Officer Michael Keenan commented:

"For our part, Unite has sought to negotiate a resolution to the pay dispute through inviting the NIHE management to Labour Relations Agency mediated negotiations.

“The Chief Executive and Housing Executive managers have to show respect to workers and tenants - they should clear their diaries and engage in a fulsome way with the trade unions to negotiate an end to this strike. The NIHE like to reference the below-inflation 2022-23 pay offer but the issue at the heart of this dispute is the imposition of 1.75 percent for 2021-22. Our members cannot and will not move on with what is a real-terms pay cut in the middle of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.  

"Outgoing Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey made it clear during meetings with the trade unions that she wouldn't restrict the ability of the Housing Executive management to negotiate a settlement of the workers' pay claim and contacted the Chief Executive encouraging her to engage in talks.

"When challenged the Housing Executive like to talk about their ‘pay and grading review’ but this does not, in any way, address the workforce pay claim for 2021-2022. Unite members are now thirteen weeks standing on picket lines fighting for a cost of living pay increase for the 2021-2022 year. NIHE management need to stop obfuscating and address our member’s pay claim."