More than 500 staff at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway are being balloted over possible strike action.
The union Unite, which is running the ballot, said the dispute concerned what it called "sweeping changes" that had been made to employees’ terms and conditions and HR practices after the merger of St Mungo’s and Broadway earlier this year.
The union, which said that members had already passed a vote of no confidence in senior management, said that the starting annual salary of a new project worker had been cut from £25,000 to £20,000, and that significant changes had been made to HR policies and procedures without consultation with the union.
The merged charity employs about 1,200 people, about 200 of which worked for Broadway before the merger.
Nicky Marcus, regional officer at Unite, said that Broadway – which she described as a "struggling" organisation that had posted a deficit in each of the past six years – had staged a "bizarre coup d’état" that had resulted in four of the merged charity’s seven-strong executive team, including chief executive Howard Sinclair, coming from Broadway.
"Management has slashed the pay of new starters by £5,000 a year for a project worker and for existing staff being restructured; taken pay out of collective bargaining; imposed new, draconian policies and procedures; and breached the recognition agreement with Unite repeatedly," said Marcus.
"Staff are furious. They are simply not prepared to stand by and watch the heart and soul being ripped out of their organisation, one with a hard-fought reputation built on quality."
She said that staff were concerned about the effect that any strike action would have on the vulnerable people they worked with, but that they were more concerned at the long-term negative effects of the changes.
"Cheap labour, downgraded roles, staff working under minimum standard policies and procedures are never a path to quality in social care," she said.
Sinclair said the charity deeply regretted the fact that the union was balloting over strike action and remained open to talks with staff and Unite representatives.
"We are making no redundancies, honouring terms and conditions and not cutting salaries for existing staff," he said. "We remain committed to paying at least the living wage.
"We do propose paying new staff to the median level for our sector. Our priority remains providing services of the highest quality for the increasing numbers of clients we are seeing, within the ever tighter economic environment."
The ballot will close on 7 October and union members will meet on 8 October to discuss when any industrial action might take place.