pounds 1m deal tempts nuns to evict carer

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The Independent Online
A "CARING" order of Irish nuns has chosen today - St Patrick's Day - for an act that is apparently lacking in charity to one of their compatriots.

The Poor Servants of the Mother of God are seeking an eviction order at Lambeth County Court, in south London, against arguably one of their most faithful servants.

If they are successful, Josephine Cregan, who has been a care worker for the order for 20 years, will have to leave her tied cottage in Streatham, south London, because the nuns are selling their residential home for people with learning difficulties.

The site is likely to fetch more than pounds 1m, thus turning the Poor Servants of the Mother of God into the "Comfortably Off Servants of the Mother of God, as Frank Minal, an official with the GMB general workers' union, puts it.

Ms Cregan, 43, was first offered statutory minimum redundancy pay of pounds 4,180 - a figure which was increased by eight week's pay - pounds 1,760 - after the intervention of the GMB. It is understood that it was then raised by pounds 3,000, and yesterday by a further pounds 1,000 after the involvement of The Independent. Thus, after two decades of looking after disadvantaged people for the nuns, Ms Cregan could lose her job and her home, with pounds 10,000 compensation.

"I was offered another job," said Ms Cregan, "but it was on less money and with no accommodation. I have given my life to the order. I think I've been treated very badly."

Letters to Ms Cregan from the order give her notice to quit and remind her that her contract states that her accommodation lasts only as long as the job.

A spokesman for the order's solicitors said Ms Cregan had been offered another job and temporary accommodation but she had refused. He said she was asking for a "five figure" redundancy payment which no charity could countenance. Every effort would be made to reach a settlement before today's hearing.