Local elections have finished and there are a whole host of exciting motions and positions to be debated and voted on within your community and tenants’ union!
There will be debates on these hosted online, with motions grouped thematically, from the 15th to the 19th February between 6PM – 8PM. These will be recorded so there is no obligation to come to all but if you are interested in arguing for or against any of the below your involvement would be fantastic. Please check your email, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information and to register.
Voting will be open from the 20th until the day of the AGM itself on the 27th to approve or reject the below motions. Again, keep an eye on your emails for your unique voting link.
Members can read the constitution and bylaws of the union while logged in here.
Registrants to this eventbrite event will receive information around how to access the online event for the day of the AGM itself.
Note that only members can attend and have voting rights. You can join as a member here: https://catuireland.org/join/
Presented below are the list of motions from each group.
First of all however, are listed 3 motions from the outgoing national committee. The first 2 serve as general polls of the membership to allow for early online voting to occur, and the third is a proposal for how representation of areas and demographics works within the union. Online voting is a change that the union has been forced into as a result of the pandemic and so the first 2 of these 3 motions must pass to allow for the remaining AGM process to occur. These are suggestions from the outgoing national membership committee following lessons learned in our first year as an organisation.
Motion 1: National Committee motions
The national membership committee can propose motions to amend the governing documents contained in the bylaws to a max of three motions. This occurs at the start of the AGM process.
Motion 2: Voting structures
Voting structures for the AGM are
A. One member one vote on all motions proposed by local groups, branches and by the national committee
B. Voting takes place on the day of the AGM and/or up to two weeks beforehand online.
Motion 3: National Representation
A. General members have a right of representation when they form a local group or branch or caucus
B. All representatives on the national committee can be recalled (through a recall election) by the member they represent (local or caucus) if it is felt they are not being adequately represented.
C. Right to minority representation through caucuses. A caucus is a self-defining minority or under-represented group in the union. A caucus is defined in terms of the concept of systemic oppression and has to align with goals and values of union. A minority or under-represented group, with 15 members, has the right to elect their own representative with 1 representative per caucus. Definition of caucuses to be developed by a working group based on further research and proposed to national.
The remaining motions are presented group-by-group in alphabetical order:
Motion 4: The Political Outlook of the Union is anti-capitalist
This union notes: the scourge of landlordism in Ireland’s urban centres, where tenants are charged exorbitant rents and illegal fees, to live in sub-standard housing conditions. This is because they either 1.) need to for education or work 2.) have not the means to get onto the property ladder. This Union notes the exploitation of tenants, a large part of whose wages are instantly siphoned to the landlord’s pocket every month, and used for personal enrichment. Tenants do not see the benefits of paying exorbitantly every month, but face no other choice in many cases.
This Union believes: in opposition to the economic system known as capitalism, which is the main driver of landlordism and destroys communities. Capitalism constantly turns our basic necessities such as shelter, into profit pursuits. An arrangement that will never serve the tenant, and traps many in poverty. We should expose its glaring faults, its exploitation of workers, and relate this to the environment we organise in. If we really want to build power in our communities, and improve the quality of life, then we must oppose capitalism, and all its inefficiencies that do not serve the interests of the tenants across our island.
This Union resolves: to declare openly its opposition to capitalism, as a system that does not serve tenants and actively lowers their quality of life over time, with the main reason for this being the pursuit of profit by the landlords. It also resolves to educate its members of the predatory nature of capitalism and the power dynamics within it that enable the exploitation of tenants by landlords.
Motion 5: No member of the Security forces North or South, including the PSNI or Garda Síochána, and private security personnel involved in facilitating evictions are to hold membership of CATU.
CATU believes that the inclusion of state security personnel would undermine the union operationally and put the health and safety of our members at risk.
CATU also notes the special function of the Police as the armed enforces of capitalism and private property relations as a major obstacle in the fight against landlordism and the struggle for secure housing.
Motion 6: Research & Information Working Group.
This union notes: the increasing trend, nationally, of housing being turned into a commodity/asset by & for large corporate investors through various means e.g. build-to-rent, co-living, vulture acquisitions. The deleterious social, human impacts of these processes, limiting as they do people’s ability to access decent, affordable, long tenure homes; which is all facilitated by the state through various measures including tax, regulatory, and fast tracked policy changes.
This union believes: CATU Ireland should establish a national working group to research and track this ongoing trend and its effects to foster a deeper understanding of these processes with a view to exploring how they might be stopped, or reversed with specific focus in strategically disseminating and leveraging useful information among branches and the general public.
This union resolves: to carry out a survey of all members who would have interest in researching the mentioned topics, and if any members have skills, resources, or knowledge which could aid the research and education, with the working group being then set up and open to all members.
Motion 7: Campaign for establishment of a public landlord registry.
This union notes: Tenants currently enter into contracts of blind trust with individual landlords and management agencies. There is no centralised method for tenants to determine if Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), civil or criminal action has been taken against a landlord in respect of their properties. RTB, civil cases and direct action against landlords have been hampered or stalled where landlords have deliberately obscured their contact information. A number of territories, for example Scotland, have well established landlord registries. Landlords act in the manner of commercial agents but most are unburdened by the regulations and licencing required to operate a commercial enterprise.
This union believes: CATU Ireland should campaign for the introduction of a national registry of landlords.
This union resolves: A campaign group open to all members be set up within the union to coordinate this action. Other interested parties and groups external to the union be engaged with an aim to producing a uniform and wide ranging message. The actions of the campaign be directed at entities best positioned to establish such a registry, including, but not limited to: Local authorities and the members of relevant Strategic Policy Committees, The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and its relevant Minister(s), The RTB and its members.
Motion 8: Campaign for establishment of a substantial national vacant property tax.
This union notes: Our cities are full of derelict houses and commercial properties, properties are vandalised without penalty by leaving them go derelict, damaging our cityscapes and our communities. The freedom landlords hold to leave houses vacant massively exacerbates the housing crisis, there are more than enough vacant homes in Ireland to house every homeless person and persons in precarious living situations. Many governments and local authorities, such as the City of Vancouver, have taxes on vacant non-primary residences amounting to 1.25+% of their assessed taxable value, a 7% vacant property levy exists in Cork City on all properties on the council’s Vacant Sites Register. This register currently has 16 properties named in it when there are hundreds of vacant properties in Cork City and the council struggles to enforce the levy even just on those properties named. The Derelict Sites Act 1990 leaves it to local authorities to enforce a 3% levy on derelict sites which can easily be avoided by landlords and commercial property agents.
This union believes: CATU Ireland should campaign to have the government institute a nationwide vacant property tax on every vacant property bar primary residences at 1-10% of their market value per annum. CATU local groups should campaign to have their local authorities either institute a levy or enforce an existing levy and create a full register of vacant non-primary residence properties.
This union resolves: A direct action plan be formulated to paste an informational CATU poster on as many vacant houses and commercial properties as possible, a social and traditional media campaign be initiated to inform the wider public of the current situation as well as our aims and demands, public pressure be directed towards relevant authorities and groups, including, but not limited to: Local authorities, The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and its relevant Minister(s), Commercial property agents.
Motion 9: Campaign for public housing
This union notes: There is a severe shortage of public housing and public land continues to be sold
This union believes: CATU Ireland should campaign to increase the building of public housing by 50% and ban the sale of public land to private developers
This union resolves: A campaign group open to all members be set up within the union to coordinate this, a timeline put in place of actions.
Motion 10: Campaign to hold landlords/housing bodies/council accountable for renting out properties that are not fit for purpose.
This union notes: Many rental properties don’t meet basic living standards and there is little to no repercussions for those responsible for them.
This union believes: Landlords, housing bodies, and local authorities responsible for substandard rental accommodation should be held accountable for ensuring they are fit for purpose.
This union resolves: A campaign group open to all members be set up within the union to coordinate this, a timeline put in place of actions.
Motion 11: A working group to be set up within CATU to consider potential conflicts of interests between tenants and the small proportion of CATU members who are property owners.
Motion 12: A working group to be set up to put together a plan for facilitating and encouraging great cross-group collaboration.
Motion 13: Homes for All.
This union notes: Housing as is currently understood is as a commodity to be bought and sold. However, in order for a commodity to have value some element of scarcity is required. This scarcity is consistently artificially constructed rather than an organic element of society. Since the establishment of the Housing Market as a concept there have been people whose circumstances lead them to be homeless. Empirically it is cheaper to house homeless people than allow them to continue to be homeless. The housing market has also ensured that many people are stuck in potentially dangerous or precarious conditions, such as people cohabiting with an abusive partner, or immigrants squeezed into dangerous, unsanitary conditions with multitudes of people in a single room.
This union believes: Housing, as an internationally recognized human right, requires deliberate legal protection. The situation relating to housing and homelessness can be resolved with dynamic, forward-thinking action.
This union resolves: A system by which houses are removed from the market be created, which removes the predatory nature of the threat of homelessness from society and enables all members of society to live in an environment which is adequate, safe and secure. This system should be organized on the basis of community and shared solidarity, being conscious of the historical association of power in relation to housing in the context of Irish history. Ultimately all members of society should receive a home.
Motion 14: CETA.
This union notes: That CETA will soon be put to a Dáil vote. CETA would allow corporations to sue the Irish Government for loss of profits through an “Investor Court System” if ratified.
This union believes: That if CETA is ratified, it will hold back progress in areas such as environmentalism, workers rights, housing, and the ending of Direct Provision.
This union resolves: A campaign group open to all members be set up within the Union to coordinate this.
Motion 15: Anyone who carries out or facilitates evictions should not be able to join CATU.
Motion 16: An Anti-Racism working-group led by those directly affected by racism in housing and communities should be set up.
Motion 17: Endorsement of universal public housing
Policy proposal: This AGM calls on the national executive of CATU to endorse universal public housing on an all-Ireland basis. CATU will call for the governments North and South to establish a firm legal basis for the right to housing for all, through a variety of means (up to and inclusive of enshrining the right to housing in the constitution) and to commence a massive programme of building universally accessible public housing with rents linked to income. A statement would be published to this effect and working research group establish to explore the matter further.
Motion 18: Campaign for all-Ireland universal public housing
This AGM calls on the national executive of CATU to initiate an all-Ireland public housing campaign and to work with other like-minded organisations in calling for the government to establish a firm legal basis for the right to housing for all, through a variety of means (up to and inclusive of enshrining the right to housing in the constitution) and commencing a massive programme of building universally accessible public housing with rents linked to income.
Motion 19: CATU supports the abolition of all forms of carceral systems of immigration detention, including direct provision.
Motion 20: All forms of student accommodation (incl digs) should have rent capped at a proportionate rate to state’s student assistance and disability allowance.
Motion 21: Rent Cut and rent strikes.
This union notes: Rents are currently unaffordable and unfair. Tenants pay between 30-60% of income in rent, pushing many people into poverty.
This union believes: Secure, good quality and affordable homes with fair rents are needed for tenants across the Island. This means a permanent ban on economic evictions, and rent cuts.
The union supports tenants collectively withholding rent (rent strikes) as a means of achieving these aims.
Motion 22: The union adopts an abolitionist perspective.
The union notes: Thousands of people are committed, sentenced, or adjacent to Irish prisons every day. The majority of these people are detained for non-violent or class based offenses like drug possession, ‘public order’ charges, or immigration violations. An Garda Síochána are a racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-traveller, and ableist organisation which exists to protect a society built on violence committed against poor and marginalised people, specifically non-national and non-masculine people. They are consistently on the side of landlords during illegal evictions and other forms of violence related to housing issues. Carceral systems in Irish society commit violence against asylum seekers, sex workers, unhoused people, and other precarious populations. ‘Prison Industrial Complex abolition is a political vision with the goal of eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment; abolition is both a practical organizing tool and a long-term goal.’ (from http://criticalresistance.org/about/not-so-common-language/). The history of prison reform has been an attempt to humanise and justify an inherently violent, negative institution. The root of abolitionist politics is a denial of this process. Abolitionists do not recognise the legitimacy of carceral systems and hence aim to end them instead of giving them life support. Community centred solutions which prioritise restorative justice and social care will always be better for our neighbourhoods. The police needlessly escalate situations which could be dealt with, when provided proper resources, by the community itself. The authority given to police to intervene, serving as a justification for their force, does not help the victims of violence, but simply applies force which puts everybody, especially marginalised people in the area, at risk. Black lives matter.
This union believes: Prisons exist to erase people from their communities by hiding them behind walls we are meant to ignore. To be part of and responsible to the community, we need to recognize all of its members, including those currently incarcerated or otherwise at risk from state violence. Actively pursuing abolition in our organising is a way to centre the voices of precarious groups in our membership and neighbourhoods. It is a perspective which looks closer at the causes of housing precarity and state necropolitics, providing more effective solutions for fighting the housing crisis.
This union resolves: To adopt an abolitionist perspective when taking action and envisioning our politics. To promote voices in the union at risk of harm from carceral system. To consider ways going forward to bring abolitionist politics into every level of the union and its vision. That the union be not open to the police being members, in the same way landlords are not allowed to be part of the union.
Motion 23: Deposit brokerage research working group.
This union notes: how uncommon the use of third party brokers or use of ESCROW accounts in holding deposits for tenants. This union believes: tenants are better served when an independent third party holds their deposit.
This union resolves: to set up a research group to find out how common any kind of third party brokerage is in rental agreements, what current solutions exist, resolve to decide on whether current solutions favour tenants, and if not, see if the union or a related body could feasibly provide this brokerage as a service.
Motion 24: Sub-letting research working group.
This union notes: the inconsistent position of being a tenant that sublets brings to union membership.
This union believes: that a clearer position needs to be established for tenants that sublet.
This union resolves: to set up a group to figure out a common position to adopt as a union in relation to sub-letting tenants. A resolution might be a code of conduct, where failure to adhere to measures results in having membership reviewed or revoked.