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Employees at Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) are organizing to protect social housing, says CUPE 1860 president Jeanne Clarke.

Funding has been cut back to bare bones and the corporation has sold off large chunks of its land holdings,” says Clarke. “In the past we’ve seen a reduction in staff due to the corporation’s decision to sell off some of its market rentals.

Where are we going to be in a few more years?”

Local 1860 members are active within the national Public Works! campaign, trying to stop the privatization of social housing. A recent ad campaign chided the provincial government for its plans to move out of property management and into rent subsidies, which will leave low-income earners at the mercy of the marketplace.

Nobody should have to choose between eating and paying the rent,” says Clarke. “Shelter is a basic human right – and government has a responsibility to provide that – not the private sector.”

Clarke adds that privatizing social housing will cost everybody more: “…more homelessness, more poverty,

and more demands on our health care system.”

Clarke says that members are becoming frustrated with cutbacks that reduce their ability to do their jobs. Staff shortages, unnecessary delays in repairs and maintenance and an increase in complaints from tenants are contributing to high levels of job stress. There are fears the Housing Corporation may use staff shortages to justify contracting out.

The local is hoping to make links with tenants associations, political groups and other grassroots organizations to solicit support for protecting social housing. It is also conducting a membership survey to determine the impact of funding reductions on services and jobs. Survey results will be used to help make a case for maintaining and improving services provided by NLHC.

Gail McNeil