Shelter staff to strike next week over changes to pay

The Unite union says its 400 members at the housing charity have voted to walk out for three days, starting on Tuesday


Union members at the housing charity Shelter will go on strike for three days next week in a dispute over changes to pay for front-line staff.

The union Unite announced today that its 400 members at Shelter had voted last week in favour of strike action, which would begin at 00:01 on Tuesday.

Unite said that the charity, which employs 1,300 people, including those working in its shops, was making changes that could lead to pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year for new advice and support workers and £3,000 for existing front-line staff. It said that the pay of existing front-line staff was being guaranteed only until 2016.

The union said that in addition to cuts in salary for new starters, the charity was also seeking to implement a separate pay scale for existing front-line advice and support workers to that used for staff not working on the front line.

Unite said the planned changes meant that some advice workers could earn up to £3,000 a year less than other Shelter employees on the same grade but in different roles.

The union said that 69 per cent of its Shelter membership, which has grown from 330 last week, voted in favour of strike action.

Peter Storey, regional officer at Unite, said: "Our members care deeply about the help they give and the people they support. They are fearful that cut-rate pay will lead to a cut-rate organisation as managers struggle to recruit experienced replacements on the new lower rates of pay.

"Shelter’s front-line support and advice workers are the lifeblood of the charity and deserve better than pay cuts while those with huge salaries at the top see their pay protected.

"Cutting pay for some of our lowest-paid staff is simply not necessary. Shelter is in a healthy financial position and management needs to get back around the table to negotiate a fair settlement." 

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said that he was disappointed to hear that union members would be going on strike.

"While only a small proportion of our staff have voted in favour of strike action, we have developed contingency plans to ensure there is as little impact as possible on the services we provide," he said.  

"At Shelter we aim to pay a broadly typical market salary across all roles, and we benchmark salaries regularly to help us achieve this. In doing so we have found we currently pay staff working in advice and support well above the salary for similar roles elsewhere – which, with funding cuts and more competition for donors, we cannot sustain.

"This leaves us with a simple but painful choice: keep the higher pay levels, cut our services and make some roles redundant; or maintain the number of people we help and reduce salaries for new staff. We always strive to be the best employer we can be, but in this instance we feel we have to put our ability to help those who need it first."

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