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Unite union confirms 'Transport House will reopen by end of next year'

Transport House is expected to be fully operational again by the end of next year, according to the Unite union. Picture: Hugh Russell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

STAFF at the Unite union are to move back into the grade B+ listed Transport House in Belfast's High Street by the end of next year, it has been confirmed.

The building, completed in 1959 as offices for the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union before being taken over by Unite, closed in 2012.

But last year plans were announced to relocate the union's office from its existing site on the Antrim Road back to Transport House.

It is understood that money - believed to run into several million pounds - has been committed for the refurbishment of the two-block building (one tower is seven storeys high and the other five storeys).

And yesterday a spokesman for the Unite union told the Irish News: "Yes, we expect to be moved back in by the end of next year.

"All planning approvals have been granted.

"Right now we are going through the procurement stage, which will probably take most of the rest of this year.

"We then hope that work can get under way early into 2023 and we'll be able to move in later the same year."

Transport House was designed by J.J. Brennan, inspired by the contemporary design of Busáras, the bus offices and terminus in Dublin designed by Michael Scott (it opened in 1953).

It was officially listed in 1994 for its 'special architectural interest' and indeed is one of Northern Ireland's youngest listed buildings.

At the time, Historic Buildings and Monuments described Transport House as “a very assertive building – dramatic in its impact, exhibiting a range of modernist features in a well worked out scheme.”

The building appears as two conjoined blocks, clad for the most part in green glazed tiles, supported at each end by pilotis. The column shafts are wrapped in black glazed tiles and the bases have a mosaic finish.

The building features raised lettering, a concrete canopy, cantilevered over the main entrance, and also a five-storey high tiled mural, set in a concave wall, depicting regional industries such as a plane, cranes, a ship, and a factory.

For many years the building had been surrounded by unattractive hoarding, but in recent times Unite agreed to carry out works and to replace it with a high quality mural in keeping with the building.

Unite's permanent staff will be joined in the revamped building next year by those from the Communications Workers Union (CWU), who currently share their offices on the Antrim Road.

The Unite union has been front and centre in recent months in a series of industrial disputes across the north.

It follows the election last year of Sharon Graham to succeed Len McCluskey as Unite's general secretary, and who has had a renewed focus on industrial relations in Northern Ireland.

Following the Queen's Speech last week, Ms Graham hit out at the lack of action to address the cost of living crisis.

Ms Graham said: “Workers and communities are suffering. We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and a recession is looming. So where is the programme to address these issues head on? Where are the laws to stop profiteering and prevent attacks on workers? Where is the help for the millions who are already faced with the shocking decision of whether to heat or eat?

“This government has totally failed to deliver. Instead it has served up slogans, sided with bad bosses and rolled out yet more assaults on our freedoms to protest.

“We are hearing lots of talk, but that is all it is – talk, not action. This is why voters look at Westminster and despair and it has to change. Unite will remain focused on protecting jobs, raising pay and improving lives.”

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