Strike ballot at Shelter

Trade union representatives have accused homelessness charity Shelter of "bullying and intimidating" staff into accepting inferior employment terms as strike action looms.

Shelter plans to restructure, adding 2.5 hours to its working week, scrapping annual salary uplifts above inflation and resulting in up to five redundancies. The charity strongly denied the bullying allegation and insists it has no choice but to renegotiate terms with staff in response to changes to the way contracts are awarded.

Unite is balloting more than 450 of its members who work at the charity over strike action in protest at the plans. The union’s national secretary Doug Nicholls said members at the charity were “very angry”.

“We still hope that management will see sense,” he said. “We’re particularly angry at the bullying and intimidation used to force staff to sign new, inferior contracts.”

Shelter, which employs more than 800 staff, said the restructure was due to it having to cut costs after the Legal Services Commission changed the way it awarded contracts (Third Sector, 28 November).

Chief executive Adam Sampson denied that the charity had bullied staff. “We totally refute any allegation of bullying and intimidation,” he said.

“We have been negotiating with the trade unions, staff and managers for the last nine months, and through emails, management briefings, and questions and answers we are trying to give all our staff all the information we can, while pointing out the reality and hard facts of the situation.”

Sampson said Shelter, deeply regretted having to change the employment terms. He said: “If we act now we lose no more than 5 staff, if we don't act we could be forced to make up to 200 of our staff redundant, which is something we all want to avoid.”

The strike ballot will run until the middle of February.

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