The Guardian 7 September, 2005

Doors close on women’s refuge

Community workers sacked on the spot when a Tamworth women’s refuge closed are setting up their own service in the street outside. They took the drastic action after the Tamworth Women’s Refuge was closed due to a service "restructure", leaving the more than 2000 families a year who use the service without adequate care.

The closure also left the six staff that worked at the refuge without a job. Workers were called to a meeting where they were sacked on the spot and told to return their keys.

"I was absolutely devastated", said Chris Solberg, a crisis worker at the refuge for 13 years. "There was no indication to any of us [that the refuge was going to close]."

Three women who were staying at the refuge at the time it closed were relocated to an Aboriginal hostel in Tamworth.

Support services for the women have been reduced from 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the refuge to 9am to 5am, Monday to Friday with a social worker.

"Apparently nothing goes wrong outside those times", said Chris Solberg. The sacked staff will set up their own service to provide support overnight.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) is providing family support services for the former residents and plans to set up a temporary refuge until a more adequate solution can be reached. They are also fighting to have the workers reinstated.

ASU Branch Secretary Sally McManus said the union was seeking the intervention of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and called on the NSW Minister for Community Services to resolve the issue.

"The workers have been unfairly dismissed and the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement Working Party should be held to account for its actions", she said.

Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson said this and other cases of employee mistreatment was "setting tone for workplace relations in this country".

"People think they can get away with whatever they want, whenever they want," he said. Mr Robertson pledged to stop the Your Rights at Work bus outside the refuge when it tours the North Coast if the matter had not been resolved before then to highlight the situation.

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