St Mungo's faces strike ballot as talks collapse

The charity and the trade union Unite had been locked in a dispute over alleged changes to staffing and pay and conditions

Talks between the homelessness charity St Mungo’s and the trade union Unite have collapsed, with the charity now facing a strike ballot.

The charity and the union were locked in discussions with the conciliation service Acas from 12 July until Friday to avert a vote on industrial action over alleged issues with staff terms and conditions.

Unite claimed the charity was refusing to cancel plans to remove a junior staffing cap agreement and said it feared services would be harmed because higher-paid experienced staff were being pushed out and replaced by lower-paid junior staff.

In a statement, the union said it also had issues with the charity’s "draconian" sickness and disciplinary policies.

But the charity denied it was seeking to alter staff terms and conditions or that staff would be made redundant.

The collapse in talks now means a strike ballot is almost certain, although Unite has not yet confirmed when the ballot will go ahead.

Third Sector understands that the charity is confident it would be able to keep key services open in the event of a strike, but its 24-hour services are the most likely to be affected.

Approximately a third of the charity’s workforce are members of the union.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said the charity was disappointed at the collapse in Acas talks.

"St Mungo’s started the process willing to listen and engage, and we have made a number of changes to our policies during the process in order to try to reach agreement," he said. "It is very disappointing that Unite officials would not compromise.

"Unite’s threat of a strike is a disproportionate response, totally unnecessary and potentially very disruptive. We have made clear to Unite officials that St Mungo’s is not proposing any changes to terms and conditions of staff. 

"If Unite’s strike goes ahead, St Mungo’s will do everything necessary to protect the safety and interests of our most vulnerable clients."

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: "Unite is obviously very disappointed at the collapse of these talks. 

"It is disappointing that St Mungo’s senior management has chosen to ignore their employees’ legitimate concerns. 

"Unite will now be balloting members for industrial action."

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